COULD BLACK PHILANTHROPY HELP SOLVE THE BLACK STUDENT DEBT CRISIS?

Urban Faith | 7/12/2019 | Mako Fitts Ward, Arizona State University
Tanya9 (Posted by) Level 3
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Left: Robert Smith. Right (clockwise from left): Beyonce Knowles-Carter, Jay-Z, LeBron James and Nicki Minaj.

When billionaire Robert E. Smith decided to pay off the student loans of the graduating class of 2019 at Morehouse College, he suggested that others follow his lead.

Class - Opportunity - Care - Community - Smith

“Let’s make sure every class has the same opportunity going forward, because we are enough to take care of our own community,” Smith declared in his commencement speech.

But is there even enough black private wealth in the United States to pay off all black student loan debt?

Scholar - Transformation - American - Studies - Question

As a scholar in social transformation and African American studies, I’m intrigued by this question. It provides an opportunity to examine black wealth, higher education and the possibilities for alleviating debt, which in turn opens the door to new economic opportunities.

Smith’s gift is estimated to be worth US$40 million and will benefit 396 students.

Lot - Money - Gift - Morehouse - Smith

That’s a lot of money, and he’s done it before. Before his gift to Morehouse, Smith donated $50 million to Cornell University, his alma mater, in part to support African American and female students at Cornell University’s College of Engineering.

Other black celebrities have also stepped up to fund education. Powerhouse couple Beyonce and Jay Z gave more than $1 million in scholarships to students who lived in cities they were touring in 2018.

Rapper - Nicki - Minaj - Student - Game

Rapper Nicki Minaj gave 37 “Student of the Game” scholarships. LeBron James, through his foundation, promised to pay for 2,300 students to attend the University of Akron – at an estimated price tag of $100 million. Oprah Winfrey has donated more than $400 million to educational causes.

But with just five black billionaires in the United States – Smith, Winfrey, David Steward, Michael Jordan and Jay-Z – monumental gifts like the one that Smith made will likely be few and far between.

Smith - Claim

Is Smith’s claim that “we are enough to...
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