Robert Smith (Image from Morehouse College commencement video)
The Morehouse College Class of 2019 didn’t just earn their degrees; they also got total student loan forgiveness from commencement speaker and billionaire Robert Smith. In a surprise move, Smith announced his family would pay off the student loan debt of every Morehouse student graduating that day, a sum Forbes calculates to be between $10 million and $40 million.
While this generous gift will make a huge difference in the lives of students, it’s well within budget for Smith, whose fortune — built through private equity firm Vista Equity Partners — is estimated at $5 billion. With this act of philanthropy, Smith joins a small group of wealthy individuals who have helped others avoid the burden of student loan debt.
Here’s the story on Smith and similar philanthropists who want to help solve the student loan crisis in America.
1. Billionaire Robert Smith promises to pay student loans
Smith had been planning the announcement for days, but most students, families and faculty were caught by surprise when he revealed he would pay the student loan debt of all 396 graduates at the commencement ceremony Sunday.
“Let’s make sure every class has the same opportunity going forward, because we are enough to take care of our own community,” Smith said in his speech to the all-male students at this historically black college. “We are enough to ensure we have all of the opportunities of the American dream, and we will show it to each other through our actions and through our words and through our deeds.”
Although the details of this pledge haven’t been worked out yet, Morehouse grads can go forward to pursue jobs, internships or further study without student loans weighing them down.
2. Oprah Winfrey has supported Morehouse students, too
On the same day Smith pledged to wipe away the debt for Morehouse grads, celebrity Oprah Winfrey was delivering a commencement speech at Colorado College. Famous for her charitable giving, Oprah has her own history of helping Morehouse students.
In 1989, she spoke at the Atlanta school and announced a $1 million donation to Morehouse scholarships. Since that time, she’s donated $12 million more to the scholarship fund, helping put more than 400 students through school.
3. Ken Langone helped make NYU medical school tuition-free
Home Depot founder Ken Langone is also doing his part to relieve students of education debt. As chair of the board of trustees at the NYU Langone Medical Center, Langone donated $100 million to help make NYU’s medical school tuition-free. Although NYU’s offer doesn’t cover room and board, it waives the $55,000 annual tuition fee.
Medical school is notoriously expensive. Fortunately, however — thanks to the generosity of people like Langone — there is an especially wide selection of medical scholarships, as well as student loan repayment assistance for physicians, nurses and other medical professionals.
4. Nicki Minaj paid off student loans for fans
The Twitterverse was set abuzz in May 2017 when rapper Nicki Minaj offered to pay off student loans for her fans who got straight As.
After some back-and-forth tweets (and probably some exchange of paperwork behind the scenes), Minaj ended up paying off $18,000 of her fans’ loans while bringing attention to the student debt crisis. She also announced she would be setting up a charity to help students pay for college and get rid of their debt.
5. Sidney Frank donated $100 million to Brown
The late billionaire businessman Sidney Frank also made a substantial donation to put students through school. In 2004, Frank gave $100 million to his alma mater Brown University to established the Sidney E. Frank Endowed Scholarship Fund. His gift funds the education for about 130 undergraduates every year.
While funding scholarships are still a more popular form of charity than offering to pay off student loans, the effects are similar. If you’re still in school (or haven’t yet started), hunting around for scholarships and grants is vital to keeping any student debt as low as possible.
6. Bill and Melinda Gates fund billions in scholarships
Of course, Frank isn’t the only one offering scholarships. Microsoft founder Bill Gates and his wife Melinda, for instance, have been especially generous.
Since it launched in 2000, the billions of dollars in charitable donations made by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has included financial assistance for students. One of its flagship programs, the Gates Scholarship, continues to provide full-ride scholarships to high-achieving students with financial need.
In fact, many other celebrities, both past and present, have scholarship funds in their name. And while that might not be of help to those who already have student loans, it can go a long way in making sure that future graduates don’t face the same towering wall of debt that previous classes have.
Getting your student loans forgiven
If you’re not one of the lucky students who’s benefited from the philanthropy of these individuals, you might still be able to get your student loans forgiven. Programs such as Public Service Loan Forgiveness discharge student loans for qualifying professionals. And many student loan repayment assistance programs will help you pay off federal and private student debt.
Interested in refinancing student loans?Here are the top 6 lenders of 2019!
|Lender||Variable APR||Eligible Degrees|
|Check out the testimonials and our in-depth reviews!
1 Important Disclosures for Earnest.
To qualify, you must be a U.S. citizen or possess a 10-year (non-conditional) Permanent Resident Card, reside in a state Earnest lends in, and satisfy our minimum eligibility criteria. You may find more information on loan eligibility here: https://www.earnest.com/eligibility. Not all applicants will be approved for a loan, and not all applicants will qualify for the lowest rate. Approval and interest rate depend on the review of a complete application.
Earnest fixed rate loan rates range from 3.50% APR (with Auto Pay) to 7.82% APR (with Auto Pay). Variable rate loan rates range from 2.43% APR (with Auto Pay) to 7.21% APR (with Auto Pay). For variable rate loans, although the interest rate will vary after you are approved, the interest rate will never exceed 8.95% for loan terms 10 years or less. For loan terms of 10 years to 15 years, the interest rate will never exceed 9.95%. For loan terms over 15 years, the interest rate will never exceed 11.95% (the maximum rates for these loans). Earnest variable interest rate loans are based on a publicly available index, the one month London Interbank Offered Rate (LIBOR). Your rate will be calculated each month by adding a margin between 1.82% and 5.50% to the one month LIBOR. The rate will not increase more than once per month. Earnest rate ranges are current as of April 17, 2019, and are subject to change based on market conditions and borrower eligibility.
Auto Pay discount: If you make monthly principal and interest payments by an automatic, monthly deduction from a savings or checking account, your rate will be reduced by one quarter of one percent (0.25%) for so long as you continue to make automatic, electronic monthly payments. This benefit is suspended during periods of deferment and forbearance.
The information provided on this page is updated as of 04/17/2019. Earnest reserves the right to change, pause, or terminate product offerings at any time without notice. Earnest loans are originated by Earnest Operations LLC. California Finance Lender License 6054788. NMLS # 1204917. Earnest Operations LLC is located at 302 2nd Street, Suite 401N, San Francisco, CA 94107. Terms and Conditions apply. Visit https://www.earnest.com/terms-of-service, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org, or call 888-601-2801 for more information on our student loan refinance product.
© 2018 Earnest LLC. All rights reserved. Earnest LLC and its subsidiaries, including Earnest Operations LLC, are not sponsored by or agencies of the United States of America.
2 Important Disclosures for Laurel Road.
Laurel Road Disclosures
However, if the borrower chooses to make monthly payments automatically by electronic funds transfer (EFT) from a bank account, the fixed rate will decrease by 0.25%, and will increase back up to the regular fixed interest rate described in the preceding paragraph if the borrower stops making (or we stop accepting) monthly payments automatically by EFT from the designated borrower’s bank account.
However, if the borrower chooses to make monthly payments automatically by electronic funds transfer (EFT) from a bank account, the variable rate will decrease by 0.25%, and will increase back up to the regular variable interest rate described in the preceding paragraph if the borrower stops making (or we stop accepting) monthly payments automatically by EFT from the designated borrower’s bank account.
All credit products are subject to credit approval.
Laurel Road began originating student loans in 2013 and has since helped thousands of professionals with undergraduate and postgraduate degrees consolidate and refinance more than $4 billion in federal and private school loans. Laurel Road also offers a suite of online graduate school loan products and personal loans that help simplify lending through customized technology and personalized service. In April 2019, Laurel Road was acquired by KeyBank, one of the nation’s largest bank-based financial services companies. Laurel Road is a brand of KeyBank National Association offering online lending products in all 50 U.S. states, Washington, D.C., and Puerto Rico. All loans are provided by KeyBank National Association, a nationally chartered bank. Member FDIC. For more information, visit www.laurelroad.com.
3 Important Disclosures for SoFi.
4 Important Disclosures for LendKey.
Refinancing via LendKey.com is only available for applicants with qualified private education loans from an eligible institution. Loans that were used for exam preparation classes, including, but not limited to, loans for LSAT, MCAT, GMAT, and GRE preparation, are not eligible for refinancing with a lender via LendKey.com. If you currently have any of these exam preparation loans, you should not include them in an application to refinance your student loans on this website. Applicants must be either U.S. citizens or Permanent Residents in an eligible state to qualify for a loan. Certain membership requirements (including the opening of a share account and any applicable association fees in connection with membership) may apply in the event that an applicant wishes to accept a loan offer from a credit union lender. Lenders participating on LendKey.com reserve the right to modify or discontinue the products, terms, and benefits offered on this website at any time without notice. LendKey Technologies, Inc. is not affiliated with, nor does it endorse, any educational institution.
5 Important Disclosures for CommonBond.
Offered terms are subject to change. Loans are offered by CommonBond Lending, LLC (NMLS # 1175900). If you are approved for a loan, the interest rate offered will depend on your credit profile, your application, the loan term selected and will be within the ranges of rates shown. All Annual Percentage Rates (APRs) displayed assume borrowers enroll in auto pay and account for the 0.25% reduction in interest rate. All variable rates are based on a 1-month LIBOR assumption of 2.45% effective May 10, 2019.
6 Important Disclosures for Citizens Bank.
Citizens Bank Disclosures
|2.43% – 7.21%1||Undergrad & Graduate|
|2.43% – 6.65%2||Undergrad & Graduate|
|2.43% – 6.59%3||Undergrad & Graduate|
|2.44% – 6.87%4||Undergrad & Graduate|
|2.46% – 7.08%5||Undergrad & Graduate|
|2.93% – 9.67%6||Undergrad & Graduate|