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Snapchat Co-Founder Pays for Graduates’ Debt

Education, Featured

Graduates after receiving the news | Image by LA Times

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Snapchat co-founder Evan Spiegel surprised hundreds of graduates in California by paying off their student debt.

The LA Times reports that Yaritza Velázquez-Medina was one of those students. She took a significant career risk in 2018 by quitting her day job as a crisis counselor. She enrolled at the Otis Education of Art and Design in Los Angeles to be a graphic designer, and by the time it was over, she had accrued $70,000 in college debt.

After she and 284 other members of the Class of 2022 crossed the stage, Otis president Charles Hirschhorn announced that Spiegel and his wife, Miranda Kerr, would be paying the students’ loan costs. According to the Times, this announcement was met with gasps and cheers from the audience.

“I’m speechless,” Velazquez-Medina said.

Spiegel took summer classes at Otis in high school and wanted to give back to the institution.

“It changed my life and made me feel at home,” Spiegel told the graduating class. “I felt pushed and challenged to grow surrounded by super talented artists and designers, and we were all in it together.”

Spiegel and Kerr run the Spiegel Family Fund and hope this donation will encourage graduates to explore their ambitions and “empower graduates to pursue their passions, contribute to the world, and inspire humanity for years to come.”

The donation comes when student loan debt in the U.S. continues to rise. According to the Education Data Initiative, Q1 student debt for 2022 was $1.75 trillion, a 1.95% increase over Q4 2021.

The debt situation in the U.S. has prompted other high-profile donors to provide relief to institutions. CNN reported that billionaire Robert Smith covered the loan debt of every graduating senior at Morehouse College in Atlanta in 2019.

Hirschhorn did not disclose how large Spiegel’s gift was but said it was more than $10 million. He wants to award Kerr and Spiegel honorary degrees and invited them to give this year’s commencement speech.

“My reaction was euphoria,” Hirschhorn said. “Student debt weighs heavily on our diverse and talented graduates. We hope this donation will provide much-deserved relief and empower them to pursue their aspirations and careers, pay this generosity forward, and become the next leaders of our community.”       

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