CHARLOTTE, N.C. (WBTV) - Andrew Garrett, a computer science major and new Charlotte resident, was just wearing his cap and gown for graduation at Morehouse College, a historically black school in Atlanta, a few days ago.
"It's unlike any other. It's very sentimental. It's a very big deal,” said Garrett about the graduation ceremony in an interview with WBTV Tuesday evening.
The ceremony got even bigger when the 2019 commencement speaker at Morehouse’s graduation, billionaire technology investor Robert F. Smith, made a surprising announcement about student loans.
“We're gonna put a little fuel in your bus. My family is making a grant to eliminate their student loans," Smith told the crowd.
Like everyone else at the ceremony, Garrett was shocked to hear this.
"I processed it. However, I had to look around to confirm, ‘Did I really just hear that or am I making this up?’ As I looked to the left, my brother is excited, look to the right, my other brother is excited. I'm like, ‘Okay this is the real thing. This is pretty big’," recalled Garrett.
Garrett, who admits he doesn't come from money, said he owed tens of thousands of dollars in student loans. He’s thankful for Smith’s extreme generosity.
“My student loans, as I mentioned, is like $80,000 so that monthly payment is pretty steep,” Garrett elaborated.
John Easton, a member of the Charlotte chapter of the Morehouse College Alumni Association, said he was watching the graduation ceremony live online. He said he was in amazement when Smith made the big announcement about the loans.
"Just coming out of school, not having to focus on that, not having that as a ball and chain is going to free them up to pursue their dreams," said Easton.
The alumnus said he is incredibly proud of his school and the 2019 graduates.
“I just can’t tell you how excited I am about looking forward and seeing the amazing things that they’re gonna do,” said Easton.
Garrett said he still plans on continuing to live below his means despite his loans being paid off. He said he tries to use public transit instead of driving his car and he tries not to eat out. He's already thinking about how he can take this amazing act of generosity and pay it forward.
"I’m sure this not only motivated me but anyone really like it doesn't matter if you're an alum or not like wow let me really give back," said Garrett.
Garrett said he plans on putting the money he would have spent on loans towards his savings and investments.