Billionaire Robert F. Smith's $34 million gift to Morehouse grads includes parent loans

Kelly Tyko, USA TODAY

Turns out the ultimate graduation gift – paying the education loan debt of nearly 400 graduates – costs $34 million.

Four months after billionaire Robert F. Smith surprised the Morehouse College class of 2019 by pledging zero college debt, the Atlanta-based historically black, all-male college released more details of Smith and his family's donation.

Not only will the donation pay off student loans, but loans their parents took out will be included, the college said in a news release Friday about the new Morehouse College Student Success Program.

Smith, founder of private equity and venture capital firm Vista Equity Partners, is worth about $5 billion, according to Forbes. He was the wealthiest African American in the country in 2018.

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Graduates react after hearing billionaire technology investor and philanthropist Robert F. Smith say he will provide grants to wipe out the student debt of the entire 2019 graduating class at Morehouse College in Atlanta, Sunday, May 19, 2019. (Steve Schaefer/Atlanta Journal-Constitution via AP) ORG XMIT: GAATJ901

David Thomas, Morehouse College president, said Smith's gift will be "life-changing for our new Morehouse Men and their families.”

“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,” Thomas said in the release.

Along with his gifts to Morehouse, in 2016, Smith pledged $50 million to his alma mater, Cornell University, toward the school's college of engineering.

More about the Morehouse program

  • According to Morehouse, alumni who graduated in May or who finished their degree requirements during summer 2019 are eligible to receive gifts along with their parents and guardians.
  • All must show supporting documents to prove that loans were taken to finance a Morehouse College education and processed by Morehouse.  
  • The inaugural gift will cover the full payment of principal and interest for education loan balances as of Aug. 28.
  • Only loans used to pay for educational expenses at Morehouse College are eligible.
  • Six types of loans are included: federal subsidized loans, federal unsubsidized loans, Georgia Student Access Loans, Perkins Loans, Parent Plus Loans, and certain private student loans processed through Morehouse College.  
  • Payments previously made to loans are not included in the gift.
  • Learn more at morehouse.edu.

Contributing: Brett Molina and N'dea Yancey-Bragg

Follow Kelly Tyko on Twitter: @KellyTyko

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Morehouse billionaire gift: Smith donates $34 million to pay off loans