Billionaire Robert Smith Launches New HBCU Initiative to Ease Burden of Student Loans

Billionaire Robert Smith, who pledged during a commencement speech last year to pay off the student debt of the graduating class at Morehouse College, is launching a new initiative aimed at easing the burden of student loans at historically Black colleges and universities.

The nonprofit Student Freedom Initiative will address the disproportionate loan burden on Black students and create more choices for those whose career options or further educational opportunities might be limited by heavy student debt.

“You think about these students graduating and then plowing so much of their wealth opportunity into supporting this student debt, that’s a travesty in and of itself,” Smith, chairman and CEO of Vista Equity Partners, said Tuesday during a TIME100 Talks discussion with Editor-in-Chief Edward Felsenthal.

Smith is the wealthiest Black man in the United States, according to Forbes. He donated $34 million last year that wiped out the student debt of about 400 Morehouse graduates, including the educational debt incurred by their families.

The initiative, which will include 5,000 new students each year, is launching with a $50 million grant from Fund II Foundation, a charitable organization of which Smith is founding director and president.

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