Every year, approximately 23,729 colleges world-wide secure a commencement speaker to deliver a commencement address to the graduates of their respective school. This year, Morehouse College, a small, historically black, all-male college (most notably known as the college that Martin Luther King, Jr. attended), invited Robert F. Smith to be their commencement speaker. Most people reading this will probably say, “Never heard of him.” Well, he is often referred to as “the quiet billionaire.” He is the CEO of Vista Equity Partners, probably another company you never heard of.
Well, he had a surprise for the roughly 400 graduates of 2019. He was going to donate roughly 40 million dollars to pay off their student loans. “On behalf of the eight generations of my family that have been in this country, we’re gonna put a little fuel in your bus,” Smith told the graduates. “This is my class, 2019. And my family is making a grant to eliminate their student loans.”
After relieving the students of their debt, he urged them to “pay it forward.”
I was completely stunned. That was the best gift I ever received, said 2019 graduate,Brandon Sinnoh. “Robert Smith has changed my life.” Another graduate, Aaron Mitchom, had developed a spreadsheet to calculate how long it would take him to pay back his $200,000 in student loans. He said if he paid half his salary, it would take him 25 years. Upon hearing the announcement, he wept. “I can delete that spreadsheet,” Mitchcom said. “I don’t have to live off of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. I was shocked. My heart dropped. We all cried. In the moment it was like a burden had been taken off.”
Joe’s Perspective – Pay It Forward: This is an awesome gesture. We can all say, “Sure, a person with 5 billion can afford 40 million.” This is true, but not everybody pays it forward like this. When in a good financial position, we all need to find a way to pay it forward.
Joe’s Perspective – Be Cautious, Be Smart: Please re-read the story above from Aaron Mitchom. He estimated that it would take 25 years to pay off his student loans. Please listen. Please learn. Take out as little college debt as possible. It all seems like no big deal when you are 19, but when you are 30 with a mortgage and a family, the same monthly payment is due. Student loans are guaranteed. No one can declare bankruptcy to avoid paying them. Be smart. Make wise decisions. Before declaring a major, find out how much that a graduate will earn with a job in that profession.
Your Turn: What are your reactions after reading this story?