Commencement speaker Robert F. Smith announced to the 2019 graduating class of Morehouse College that he would create a grant to pay all their school loan debts.
The estimated cost of such graciousness is $40 million. Ranked by Forbes as a billionaire, Smith is known for such acts of kindness. He has given large sums of money to Cornell University and other academic institutions.
The cost of a college education has risen substantially. Students are incurring more debt than ever before.
Another problem they face is a lack of high-paying jobs. I know students who leave college $100,000 in debt and take jobs paying $30,000 to $40,000. Such huge debt handicaps our young people.
The financial hardship for students at historically black colleges and universities is particularly harsh. Many students at HBCUs are first-generation college students whose families do not have the economic resources to aid them.
HBCUs do not have the wealth of white academic institutions, and thus they cannot assist students as well as their fellow white institutions. Black students are dependent on loans to continue their education. If they are seduced into credit card debt as well, their battle is enormous.
I am happy and proud of African Americans who take on the task of investing in black college students. Tyler Perry and Oprah Winfrey have done the same.
While the pool of wealthy black people in America is much smaller than their Anglo counterparts, more African Americans need to invest in black college students. I hope that more Anglo Americans will also invest in HBCUs and black students attending private or public white institutions.
One of the ways the economic disparity that exists in this country between black and white Americans can be overcome is through the education of African American students.
They need, however, a way to garner an education without experiencing huge financial debt. We may not be billionaires, but all of us can help.
The United Negro College Fund is one method of giving help. No one wants a handout, but all of us need a hand up. Investing in black college students is investing in America’s future.
The Rev. C.W. Dawson Jr. was the first African-American to earn a Ph.D. in philosophy at MU. He teaches at Columbia College and Moberly Area Community College and writes for the Missourian.