Last year, during businessman Robert Smith’s commencement speech to the 2019 class of Morehouse College, he changed the lives of every graduating senior in the audience by pledging to pay off their student loan debt.
And now in 2020, another successful Black man is pitching in to alter the futures of more young African-American achievers.
Frank Baker, the founder of a private equity firm that invests in technology companies, says he was inspired by Smith’s pledge and is taking a page out of his book. This week, he announced he would be paying the tuition balances of about 50 seniors graduating from Spelman College in Atlanta.
“Robert was fortunate enough to go to Cornell and Columbia and him giving to Morehouse was a nod to the recognition that the majority of African-Americans going to college are graduating from historically black institutions,” Baker, who graduated from the University of Chicago, told Forbes. “We need to make sure these schools continue to be viable. We are all part of the same community. It doesn’t matter if I went to the school or not.”
Baker learned from the college’s board of trustees that there were 50 high-achieving seniors who had balances and needed help.
“The people who my heart really goes out to are women in their senior year who can’t afford it anymore and have to drop out,” Baker says. “These are the most resilient people because if they run out of money their senior year, you know they were out of money their sophomore year and just made it work.”
The cost of paying off the tuition balances of the 50 graduates is estimated at $250,000. Baker has also pledged that he has committed to spend no less than a million dollars to help Spelman seniors in a similar financial situation for the next three years.
“These are the women we need in the workforce,” he says. “They are going to make a difference.”