Best speech ever
In this season of graduation speeches, it has to be conceded that the best graduation speech ever in the history of higher education was given last Sunday by Robert F. Smith at Morehouse College in Atlanta.
Smith, a billionaire tech investor who founded Vista Equity Partners, told the Class of 2019 at Morehouse that his family would pay off the student loans for the entire class. The pledge totals around $40 million.
Students were undertandably ecstatic. They will be able to start the rest of their lives without the prospect of 25 years of payments to cover the cost of four years of college. With $40 million to cover some 400 seniors, the average student loan debt at Morehouse was around $100,000 apiece.
They are not alone. The student loan debt in America is $1.569 trillion in 2019. The average student graduates with over $33,000 in debt. About 2.8 million owe $100,000 or more.
Smith is fortunate enough to be in a position to do something for the students at Morehouse, a traditionally black men’s college. He is hoping the stduents will pay forward the gift he has given them. In a way, he is investing not just in their futures, but the future of the communities they will serve.
Promises of free college tuition in various forms are a big part of the Democratic presidential campaign. Smith’s gift shows how unrealistic that promise may be. But the high cost of going to college is a problem that needs to be studied and addressed.