Get All Access for $5/mo

A Billionaire Commencement Speaker at a Georgia College Announced That He Will Pay Off the Class of 2019's Student Loans Robert F. Smith, a billionaire tech investor and philanthropist, made the announcement in his commencement speech at Morehouse College.

By Ellen Cranley

This story originally appeared on Business Insider

Morehouse College Twitter via BI

A billionaire commencement speaker at Georgia's Morehouse college announced he would be paying off the graduating class's student loans.

Robert F. Smith, a technology investor and philanthropist who's CEO and chairman of Vista Equity Partners, told the 400-member Class of 2019 in his Sunday speech at the all-male historically black college that he would be creating a grant to wipe the graduates' student debt.

"My family is going to create a grant to eliminate your student loans," Smith, who is currently ranked as the 355th richest person in the world by Forbes, said to the graduating seniors. "You great Morehouse men are bound only by the limits of your own conviction and creativity."

Georgia's 11Alive News reported a Morehouse official said the gift was worth about $40 million.

Smith also pledged $1.5 million to the school and received an honorary degree from the college during Sunday's ceremony.

"This is my class," he said in his speech. "I know my class will pay this forward."

Smith, whose fortune has been estimated at $2.5 billion, was relatively unknown before making headlines as the second-largest private donor to the National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington. His gift of $20 million was beaten only by Oprah Winfrey's of $21 million.

Student loan debt reached its highest level in history in 2019, totaling about $1.5 trillion among 44 million borrowers in the US.

The national default rate on student loans is about 11 percent, and Georgia's falls just above that average. Department of Education statistics said in 2018 that 16,538 student loan borrowers are in default in Georgia.

Want to be an Entrepreneur Leadership Network contributor? Apply now to join.

Editor's Pick

Leadership

How to Close the Trust Gap Between You and Your Team — 5 Strategies for Leaders

Trust is tanking in your workplace. Here's how to fix it and become the boss your team needs to succeed.

Marketing

6 Cost-Effective Ways to Acquire Brand Ambassadors

Boost your brand's visibility and credibility with budget-friendly strategies for acquiring brand ambassadors.

Health & Wellness

Get a Year of Unlimited Yoga Class Downloads for Only $23 Through June 17

Regular exercise has been proven to increase energy and focus, both of which are valuable to entrepreneurs and well-known benefits of yoga.

Growing a Business

He Immigrated to the U.S. and Got a Job at McDonald's — Then His Aversion to Being 'Too Comfortable' Led to a Fast-Growing Company That's Hard to Miss

Voyo Popovic launched his moving and storage company in 2018 — and he's been innovating in the industry ever since.

Side Hustle

'The Work Just Fills My Soul': She Turned Her Creative Side Hustle Into a 6-Figure 'Dream' Business

Kayla Valerio, owner of vivid hair salon Haus of Color, transformed her passion into a lucrative venture.

Business Culture

Why Remote Work Policies Are Good For the Environment

Remote work policies are crucial for ESG guidelines. Embracing remote work can positively impact your business and employees.