Billionaire businessman Robert Smith made waves in May when he committed to paying off the debt for the 2019 graduates of historically-Black Morehouse College. He's now upped the offer to include debt taken on by their parents.
In a letter to parents on Friday, a Morehouse spokesperson said Smith's $34 million donation will cover student loans taken out by kids and their parents. About 400 Morehouse students will benefit from the donation.
According to the New York Times, almost 70% of Morehouse students took out federal loans to attend the school. The average student at the college graduates with about $40,000 in debt.
"It is our hope that our graduates will use their newfound financial freedom to pursue their career goals, to lead and serve the community and to remember the spirit of the gift given to them by paying it forward to support the education of future classes of Morehouse Men," said Morehouse president David Thomas.
In addition to his donation, Smith is using the gift to create the Student Success Program. The program is designed to reduce the crippling student loan debt of Morehouse College students and alumni through donations from entire classes and individuals.
Smith is the richest Black man in America, worth nearly $6 billion according to Bloomberg. He has spent decades donating millions of dollars to schools and charities.
He gave Cornell University $50 million in 2016 and signed the Giving Pledge in 2017, committing to give away half of his wealth, along with billionaires Warren Buffett and Bill and Melinda Gates.
"Now, I know my class will make sure they pay this forward. I want my class to look at these (alumni) — these beautiful Morehouse brothers — and let's make sure every class has the same opportunity going forward, because we are enough to take care of our own community," Smith said in his Morehouse commencement speech.
"We are enough to ensure we have all the opportunities of the American dream."