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Morehouse College debt relief will assist parents

In this image, Robert Smith stands in a cap and gown for a commencement speech in front of a microphone
Robert F. Smith gives the Morehouse College 135th Commencement May 19 in Atlanta, Georgia. Photo: Marcus Ingram/Getty Images

Billionaire Robert F. Smith's pledge to pay off the Morehouse College class of 2019's student loan debt, previously estimated to be a $40 million gift, will cost $34 million and will "now include federal educational debt amassed by parents," Bloomberg reports.

The big picture: Student debt in the U.S. has reached $1.5 trillion, according to the Center for American Progress, and the class of 2018 graduated with a record average of $29,200 in loans to help pay for a bachelor's degree. Black students are also 20% more likely than others to need federal student loans. The USC Race and Equity Center found this year that public higher education lacks resources to support black students from admissions to graduation.

Details: More than 400 borrowers who graduated Morehouse College will be covered by by Smith's donation for loan balances held as of Aug. 28, per Bloomberg. The college said on Friday that "the student loan debt at graduation is $35,000 to $40,000, which is higher than the average for students at historically black colleges and universities."

Go deeper: Morehouse debt relief highlights broken system for black students in higher ed