$10 million surprise from Evan Spiegel and Miranda Kerr
The 285 graduates of the Otis College of Art and Design in Los Angeles received an extra special graduation gift recently when Evan Spiegel, Snap CEO and co-founder, and his wife Miranda Kerr, founder of beauty brand KORA Organics, announced they will pay off all of the Class of 2022’s student loan debt through a donation to the school.
While the amount of Spiegel and Kerr’s donation was not disclosed, the college said it’s the largest single gift it has ever received, surpassing the previous $10 million record.
“Otis College of Art and Design is an extraordinary institution that encourages young creatives to find their artistic voices and thrive in a variety of industries and careers,” Spiegel and Kerr—who received honorary degrees from the institution— said in a statement. “It is a privilege for our family to give back and support the Class of 2022, and we hope this gift will empower graduates to pursue their passions, contribute to the world, and inspire humanity for years to come.”
Before enrolling at Stanford University, Spiegel attended classes at Otis as a high school student, which he credits with pushing him to become who he is today.
“It changed my life and made me feel at home,” Spiegel reportedly told graduates. “I felt pushed and challenged to grow surrounded by super talented artists and designers, and we were all in it together.”
Over 90% of students at Otis, a private nonprofit college, receive financial aid. The Chronicle of Higher Education puts Otis in the top 1% of most diverse colleges in the country, with 77% of its students identifying as non-white and 26% as international students.
Spiegel and Kerr’s gift comes amid a larger conversation around the student loan debt crisis in the U.S. and student loan forgiveness.
In California, where Otis is based, 3.8 million student loan borrowers collectively owe nearly $142 billion. Currently, total U.S. student loan debt stands at $1.75 trillion.
Borrowers of color are hit particularly hard by the student loan debt crisis. One in three Hispanic student borrowers have put off getting married due to their student loan debt, and nearly half (46%) of Black student borrowers have postponed buying a home, per the Education Data Initiative.
“Removing the burden of student loan debt would allow borrowers of color to begin building their savings at an earlier age,” said Bobby Matson, CEO of Payitoff, a fintech company that’s software lets banks offer student loan refinancing, in a recent Fortune interview. “Starting to save earlier compounds the wealth they would be able to amass over their lifetimes, which, in turn, should assist them in being able to contribute to their children’s educations, reducing dependency on student loans.”