Jordan Long made the difficult decision two years ago to leave Morehouse College. A sophomore at the time, he relished the school, and was active in the LGBTQ student organization and other groups. But Long already had over $60,000 in student loan debt and didn’t want to burden his family with more.
“I was worried,” he tells PEOPLE, “about more loans building up.”
Long was expected to graduate with the class of 2019 — the same class for whom billionaire investor Robert F. Smith, this year’s commencement speaker, pledged on Sunday to pay off their student debt.
When Long heard the news of Smith’s gift, he felt “shock, happiness. A little sadness,” he says. “And then I felt like I had to let it out.”
He vented via Twitter.
“I left Morehouse class of 2019 to avoid debt and this billionaire just paid the graduating class’s debt off,” Long tweeted on Sunday. “Kill me.”
When asked if Long’s student loans would be covered under Smith’s gift, Morehouse College spokeswoman Aileen Dodd tells PEOPLE in an email: “The details of the gift are still being discussed. We will know more later this week.”
Long attended Morehouse from 2015 to 2017. Now a community college student living at home in Oakland, California, he tells PEOPLE that he and other college students “wouldn’t be having this problem [of student debt] in the beginning if our society didn’t have different values.”
“We all have to make sure,” he continues, “that high quality higher education is a right for everyone.”
Long hopes the presidential candidates tackle the issue, particularly at historically black colleges or universities (HCBU) such as Morehouse, where a higher percentage of students accrue more student debt at higher rates of interest than non-HBCU students, a recent United Negro College Fund study shows.
“Billionaires giving charity is not a solution to a systematic problem,” Long says, “and we have to be politically and socially active to fix this problem — we can’t let it continue.”
Long took this past semester off from community college to earn money to pay for his next semester’s tuition. He expects to earn associate’s degrees in business and sociology before earning his bachelor’s degree in sociology at a four-year school. He then hopes to work as a community organizer.
Since Smith’s announcement, Long started a GoFundMe campaign for help paying off his student loans.
The campaign has a fundraising goal of $67,000. As of Wednesday afternoon, it had received 17 donations totaling $1065.
“I am now still saddled with over $50,000 in student debt from Morehouse and no Morehouse degree,” he writes on the GoFundMe campaign. “Any help removing this heavy financial burden is appreciated.”
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