Morehouse graduates receive surprise during commencement

US and World

ATLANTA (WIAT/CNN) — Morehouse College graduate Elijah Dormeus was ecstatic, saying,  “If I could do a back flip. I can’t jump but I definitely would be praising God.”

He was spirited not because he’s graduating but because of the announcement, their commencement speaker Robert Smith made at the end of his speech.

Robert F. Smith said, “My family is making a grant to eliminate to eliminate their student loans.”

You read right. The billionaire, who owns private equity firm Vista Equity Partners, agreed to pay off the student loans for the 396 Morehouse graduates.

For Dormeus, that means about $90,000 will be forgiven.

Dormeus, explained, “I started off with $47,000, $45,000 at the time freshman year and then each semester and after every two years the tuition goes up.”

Morehouse College President David Thomas says Smith’s gift has an estimated value of $40 million.

Thomas, explained, “To remove that burden allows them to start this phase of their life with so much more potential than they had when they sat down this morning. Because they can now go do anything they want to do.”

Thomas says he and Smith recently spoke about student debt but he had no idea the conversation would lead to the philanthropist making such a large donation.

Thomas said, “So I’ve seen a lot of graduations, I’ve been a faculty member for 30 plus years and I’ve never seen anything like this.”

As for the 2019 Morehouse graduates they say they will be celebrating for a long time.

Dormeus said, “I’m like, ‘Woah, yes! No loan no debt.'”

This is the second large gift Robert F. Smith made to Morehouse in many years.

In 2018, he donated $1.5 million to support scholarships and to create green space at the college.

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