Columbus native among Morehouse College seniors receiving zero debt gift; paying it forward

Updated: Jun. 25, 2019 at 11:39 PM EDT
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COLUMBUS, Ga. (WTVM) - It’s been slightly more than a month since Morehouse College’s 2019 graduating seniors learned they were receiving a gift of a lifetime.

Standing on the lawn of “Century Campus” where graduations are held at Morehouse, commencement speaker Robert K. Smith acknowledged the class as “his class” and proceeded to tell the nearly 400 seniors, "My family is making a grant to eliminate their student loans.”

The billionaire philanthropist changed Michael Bond’s life that day on May 19, 2019 when he vowed to pay off his tuition debt. For Bond, he said, he owes about $99,000 in student loans.

Bond added, “Everyone was hugging, dabbing each other up. It just solidified that this is our moment and we are all here together.”

After graduating from Northside High School in Columbus in 2015, Bond explained that his mother told him to try an HBCU. He admits he was hesitant at first but decided to go on a visit to the prestigious all men’s school in Atlanta.

“It just felt like home from there, that’s what made me decide on Morehouse; their culture," recalled Bond.

Little did Bond know, that one decision would pay big dividends on graduation day with a sea of hats and gowns embarking on the best graduation gift, totaling approximately $40 million combined.

Bond and the Morehouse Class of 2019 were so moved by Smith’s tuition gifts, that they’ve decided to pay it forward. Each class member is now planning to help this year’s incoming freshmen.

“Everyone in the class of 2019 has vowed to pay $100 toward freshman scholarships to pay for incoming freshmen’s books.”

According to Hero.Com, Americans owe more than $1.56 trillion in student loan debt, that’s about $521 billion more than the total U.S. credit card debt.

It’s one big financial bill Bond and his college classmates don’t have to worry about, thanks to Smith.

Bond obtained a degree in biology and has already landed a job in Orlando in computer science.

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