Even Morehouse did not know the announcement would come.
Speaking at the campus class in 2019, Robert F. Smith, a man who is richer than Oprah Winfrey, made a big move directly from the television mogul guidebook.
"My family will make a grant to get rid of your student loans," he said on Sunday morning, carrying around 400 students with hats and gowns standing.
"This is my class," he said.
In January, Mr. Smith, a billionaire, donated $ 1.5 million to the campus to fund student scholarships and a new park on campus. He received an honorary degree on graduation on Sunday.
The value of the new prize is unclear because the amount owes students varies, but the money will be disbursed through Morehouse College and will apply to "loans that students have directly for their college education," said a representative for Mr. Smith. Because the Morehouse administrator was not informed of Smith's plans before the ceremony, details of how the money would be distributed were not immediately available.
After making a lot of money in software, he was named the richest African-American by Forbes. According to the financial magazine, Mr. Net's estimate of net worth Smith is $ 5 billion, making him richer than Ms. Winfrey, who previously held the title of the richest black person.
Mr. Smith studied chemical engineering at Cornell University and finance and marketing at Columbia Business School, according to Vista Equity Partners.
In the past few years, Mr. Smith has made several famous philanthropic gifts. He started the Fund II Foundation, which partly focuses on preserving the African-American experience. He was also the only African-American who signed the Giving Pledge. Cornell named him the chemical and biomolecular engineering school for him after he announced a $ 50 million prize.
Sunday's announcement comes amid increasing demand to tackle the debt burden of student loans in the United States, which has more than doubled in the past decade.
Over the past 20 years, the average tuition fees and personal expenses Four-year colleges rose 58 percent, after accounting for inflation, while tuition fees at four-year state universities increased even higher, more than 100 percent, according to research from the College Board.
According to federal data, the average federal student loan debt is $ 32,000. The standard payment plan for federal student loans is up to 10 years, but most students, according to the study, need longer than that to pay off their balance.
For students at Morehouse, an all male, historically black college in Atlanta that costs around $ 48,500 per year to attend, the gift can be transformative, especially in uncertain years after graduation.
In an interview with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Tonga Religion, whose son Charles Releford III was a member of the Morehouse class in 2019, estimating that his son had around $ 70,000 in loans.
"I feel like Mother's Day again," he said.