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As commencement speeches go, this one was definitely not a snoozer. Billionaire investor Robert F. Smith told the Morehouse College graduating class of 396 seniors--to their total surprise--that he and his family would wipe out their student debt. The graduates of the all-male historically black college in Atlanta took a minute to process the announcement of that extraordinary gift before bursting into cheers. With an estimated net worth of $5 billion, Smith, the chief executive of a private equity firm and a longtime philanthropist, will easily be able to wipe out the estimated $10 million to $40 million of student loan debt carried by the class of 2019 at Morehouse. But the grim reality is that college students around the country are awash in $1.5 trillion in loan debt.

That's the task we as a country should be tackling. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) has been talking about taxing stock trades to cover the cost of tuition and fees at public colleges since he ran for president in 2016. He would also cut interest rates on student loans. A Sanders rival, Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), has proposed universal free college for every American and forgiveness of student loan debts in inverse proportion to income.

These plans should be just part of a wider discussion on why college is so exorbitantly expensive and what to do about it. How do you provide more aid to students without encouraging colleges and universities to keep raising tuition? How does the public get the best return on its investment in young people?

Editorial on 05/25/2019

Print Headline: What a gift!

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