Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) made a pointed yet necessary observation about student loan debt and the affordability of higher education amid news that billionaire Robert F. Smith announced he would eliminate the student debt of Morehouse College's Class of 2019.
The freshman Congresswoman urged her social media followers to compare the "life choices" of these students to those who are still saddled with student debt over the next decade.
Every Morehouse Class of 2019 student is getting their student debt load paid off by their commencement speaker. T… https://t.co/8EaxuZxSNn— Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (@Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez)1558285034.0
It’s important to note that people shouldn’t be in a situation where they depend on a stranger’s enormous act of ch… https://t.co/4dcWjh4shb— Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (@Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez)1558285034.0
While she commended Smith's generosity as "an incredible act of community investment in this system as it is," she pointed out that "people shouldn’t be in a situation where they depend on a stranger’s enormous act of charity for this kind of liberation to begin with."
Many agreed that Smith's generosity, while welcome, served as a reminder that the educational system is in dire need of reform.
@AOC @LifeCalling For sure an interesting experiment and also a great gesture by the benefactor! But it’s a crying… https://t.co/vtaoxbsbSK— IJsbrand van Veelen 🇪🇺 (@IJsbrand van Veelen 🇪🇺)1558299798.0
@AOC Still don’t understand why we charge for an education. Why would we hold back the growth of a society better y… https://t.co/90hvLge6YQ— Joe (@Joe)1558356738.0
@AOC We need to tackle the issue of student debt that doesn’t prey on people trying to get an education.— Ryan Roberts (@Ryan Roberts)1558325133.0
@AOC Great to see that when the 1% pitch in, Americans can afford an excellent public education system. #TaxTheRich… https://t.co/Rhy2lFmdQP— Peach McDouall 🌹🕊 (@Peach McDouall 🌹🕊)1558363329.0
Others concurred that this year's Morehouse graduates would likely have radically different lives without the burden of student loan debt and that a longitudinal study would likely yield enlightening results.
@AOC This is a pretty apolitical and fair statement. While not assuming the outcome, we have an opportunity to see… https://t.co/auAdOj3We9— Chris Cox™️ (@Chris Cox™️)1558356385.0
@AOC Someone needs to follow these grads and document the difference for these kids moving through life without stu… https://t.co/rlxHz11HHt— cabowabo (@cabowabo)1558359091.0
Smith's announcement came as a surprise to the students and staff at Morehouse.
"On behalf of the eight generations of my family that have been in this country, we're gonna put a little fuel in your bus," Smith, who has an estimated worth of $5 billion, said, adding:
"This is my class, 2019. And my family is making a grant to eliminate their student loans..."I know my class will make sure they pay this forward…and let’s make sure every class has the same opportunity going forward because we are enough to take care of our own community.”
There are more than 44 million borrowers who collectively owe $1.5 trillion in student loan debt in the United States, according to the most recent statistics from the Institute of College Access and Success.
The matter of how to handle the student loan debt crisis has galvanized citizens and politicians alike. Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), who is currently running for the Democratic nomination, introduced a plan that would effectively cancel the majority of student loan debt and make higher education accessible to all.