‘Thank you, God, I am debt free’: Morehouse College grads react to having student loans wiped away

‘Thank you, God, I am debt free’: Morehouse College grads react to having student loans wiped away


-I had over $200,000 in debt
coming out of Morehouse College. -On May 19, billionaire
Robert F Smith pledged to pay off student loans for every member of Morehouse
College’s 2019 graduating class. -And my family is making a grant to eliminate
their student loans. -He was speaking,
he was speaking, but out of nowhere
when he said, “I’m gonna pay
for all your loans,” we all looked around,
we’re like, “Wait a minute.
There’s no way. This guy has to be joking. And maybe I’m hearing stuff,
maybe it’s just too hot” and probably after
a good 30 seconds, tears rolled down my eyes. I’m like, “Wait, I’m debt-free.
I’m debt-free.” And I just stood up
on top of my chair and I said, “Thank you, God.
I am debt-free. Thank you, Lord.” -And I just remember
one student specifically, he turned around to his mom
and he said, “We don’t have to pay
another dime,” and that just —
that really hit my heart. I know my $20,000 — that’s a lot of money,
but there are people who had way more than that
that they had to give, which was just
absolutely amazing. And I know for a fact
that that changed lives for so many of my brothers
at Morehouse College. -In that moment,
we really realized that this thing
that we dreaded for so long was no longer
a part of our lives. We could now really get a head
start on what we were prepared to do. -So it was all family members,
so coming into Morehouse, every year, you know,
my family would say, “Alright, whose turn
is it to pay? Whose turn is it to sacrifice
and go ahead and sign a loan, because Aaron,
we see in you greatness,” right? So they bet on me. So it was my mom, my dad,
my grandmother, my sister, my brother-in-law,
and my aunt all co-signed on loans for me
to go to Morehouse College. I feel like, especially in the
black community, as black men, we really don’t talk about our
mental health issues too much, so when it came down to what’s
stressing everybody out it really was
the student loan debt. A lot of my friends, a lot of my peers
had a lot of student loan debt. And the way we kind of
got over that — we didn’t talk
about it too much — the way we kind of tried to talk
about it was through jokes. We’d say like, “Oh, wait,
if I get hit by a car today, maybe they’ll pay off
my student loan debt,” or “If something occurs then
maybe I’ll get my student loan debt paid for,”
or anything to that effect. So it really was a burden on us.
-I took out a lot of loans my freshman year,
that first semester, that’s where
a lot of that loan debt came in, but
after that it was still hard. I mean, I had to fight
for scholarships, I had to really grind
outside the classroom. I’d do a lot of
community service things. -Smith is the nation’s richest
black man, with an estimated net
worth of $5 billion. The business leader
made his fortune investing in software firms
and other data companies. In his commencement address, Smith encouraged the graduates
to give back. -I am beyond appreciative
to Robert F Smith, and we’re just gonna use
his gift and
go forward with how we do it. Because I think one of the
mottos of our class has become, “Pay it forward,” so we’ll just
continue paying it forward.

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