Students at Otis College’s commencement ceremony, where it was announced that all student loan debt for the class of 2022 was being paid off (all images courtesy Otis College of Art and Design)

It is unfortunately common these days for college grads to enter the workforce carrying the albatross of student loan debt, but thanks to a philanthropic donation, one lucky group of students got to walk for their diplomas and walk away debt-free. Los Angeles’s Otis College of Art and Design announced that a “significant” donation by Snapchat CEO Evan Spiegel and his wife, model and businesswoman Miranda Kerr, will allow for the repayment of all outstanding student debt for graduates in the Class of 2022. Charles Hirschhorn, the school’s president, made the announcement during the commencement ceremony on Sunday, May 15 at the Westin Los Angeles Airport Hotel, to the excitement of many in attendance.

These 285 graduates received debt relief from Spiegel and Kerr through the Spiegel Family Fund, which they co-founded in 2017. Considering all that bored co-eds have done for Snapchat, it is a lovely and fitting gesture for them to give something back — and clearly the summer classes Spiegel took at Otis while still in high school left a big impression.

“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 (left) and Kerr (center) were issued honorary diplomas, along with Bobby Berk (right) from Queer Eye.

The college declined to specify the amount donated, but noted that it exceeded the previous largest gift of $10 million. The jaw-dropping number averages out to $35,000 of debt per graduate in just a single class, if the debt were exactly $10 million and distributed evenly among the 285 students — which, of course, it isn’t. Debt disproportionately affects students who are low-income, underrepresented minorities, and the first in their families to attend college. While the generous donations of billionaires, such as Robert Smith’s 2019 commitment to paying off $34 million in loan debt for Morehouse College graduates, does nothing to alleviate the bigger problem, at least one cohort can celebrate loan forgiveness this week.

One of many stoked graduates and their happy families following commencement

“My reaction was euphoria,” Hirschhorn told the Los Angeles Times. “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.”

Hopefully some of them will become political organizers and lead the charge to pressure President Biden to make good on his election promises of forgiving student loan debt, so that everyone struggling under the weight of paying for their degree will have reason to throw their cap in the air and rejoice!

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Sarah Rose Sharp

Sarah Rose Sharp is a Detroit-based writer, activist, and multimedia artist. She has shown work in New York, Seattle, Columbus and Toledo, OH, and Detroit —...