'I'm Speechless': Snapchat Co-Founder Makes Shocking Announcement at L.A. Art and Design School Graduation This year's graduating class got the surprise of a lifetime.

By Amanda Breen

entrepreneur daily

Student-loan debt continues to weigh heavily on 43.4 million Americans — resulting in poorer mental and physical health, and reducing overall satisfaction with life, research shows. But for this year's graduates at Otis College of Art and Design in Los Angeles, following their passion didn't come with the hefty price tag expected.

Per the Los Angeles Times, Snapchat co-founder Evan Spiegel and his wife, model and businesswoman Miranda Kerr, revealed some life-changing news at the commencement ceremony: The couple was paying off all of the new graduates' student debt. It was the biggest donation the college had received in its history; the specific figure wasn't disclosed, but the previous record was $10 million.

Related: Anonymous Donor Pays Off Student Debt For Entire Graduating Class: 'You No Longer Have a Balance'

"I'm speechless," said new graduate Yaritza Velazquez-Medina, who'd taken a leap of faith in 2018, leaving her work as a crisis counselor to pursue her artistic goals.

For Velazquez-Medina and the other 284 class of 2022 graduates, Spiegel and Kerr's gift will help ensure that the cost of private school tuition — which, for the 2022-23 academic year, clocks in at $49,110 before financial aid — doesn't demolish their finances as they begin their new careers. According to Otis president Charles Hirschhorn, new graduates earn an average entry level salary of about $50,000.

Spiegel, who became the youngest billionaire in 2015 following his co-creation of popular social app Snapchat, said that the summer classes he took at Otis when he was in high school were formative. "It changed my life and made me feel at home," he said.

Related: How Student Loans Are Crushing Millennial Entrepreneurialism

Spiegel and Kerr aren't the first donors to surprise graduates with student-loan debt forgiveness. In 2019, billionaire Robert Smith announced he would take care of the loan debt for Morehouse College's graduating class — a $34 million gift.

For now, talks about federal forgiveness of student debt continue, with one proposal under consideration that would forgive $10,000 of debt for people who make less than $125,000 annually.

Amanda Breen

Entrepreneur Staff

Features Writer

Amanda Breen is a features writer at Entrepreneur.com. She is a graduate of Barnard College and received an MFA in writing at Columbia University, where she was a news fellow for the School of the Arts.

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