Billionaire Robert Hale doled out millions of dollars Thursday to 2,500 graduates at the University of Massachusetts, Boston — giving each one $1,000 in cash as they accepted their diplomas—the latest billionaire donation for students, as the price of tuition skyrockets.
Hale, the commencement speaker at UMass Boston, gave students two envelopes that each contained $500, the Boston Globe reported.
The billionaire co-founder and CEO of Granite Telecommunications told seniors to keep one of the envelopes for themselves, and donate the other to a charity of their choice, calling it a “gift of giving”—though whether they donate the money is up to them.
For Hale, the sudden loss of $2.5 million only represents a drop in the bucket of his $5 billion net worth, according to Forbes’ valuation.
It’s also his second time giving college graduates cash: Hale in 2021 handed $1,000 to all 270 graduating students who attended their commencement address at Quincy College, several miles outside Boston.
$15,535. That’s how much in-state students pay per year in tuition and mandatory fees at UMass Boston, a predominantly commuter school, according to the school’s bursar’s office. For out-of-state students, one year at UMass Boston costs $37,211, just below the average price of tuition at a private college in the U.S. ($37,600, according to the National Center for Education Statistics), and well below the price of Columbia University, the school with the most expensive college tuition in the country ($69,986).
Though billionaires often give massive donations to colleges and universities—and gain recognition in the process by having a school building or department named for them—direct cash donations for students is much more rare. In 2019, billionaire Robert Smith told all 396 graduating seniors at Morehouse College, a historically Black college in Atlanta, he would personally pay off their remaining student debt, spending $34 million to do so.
Hale’s donation comes nearly a year after President Joe Biden issued an executive order to forgive up to $20,000 in student debt relief—following through on a campaign promise and key progressive demand, though the order was immediately criticized by conservatives and some Democrats who argued the plan would contribute to rising inflation. On Wednesday, the GOP-led House passed a bill to repeal the plan—which has also been challenged in the courts and awaits a ruling at the Supreme Court—and restart federal student loan payments.
UMass Boston grads receive $1,000 from Quincy-based billionaire Rob Hale (Boston Globe)
Why A Billionaire Telecom Executive Gave $1,000 In Cash To Quincy College Grads (Forbes)
Billionaire Robert Smith Pays Student Loans For Morehouse Parents (Forbes)
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