Snap CEO Evan Spiegel and supermodel Miranda Kerr surprised 285 art-school students with a graduation gift: paying off their college debt

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Snap CEO Evan Spiegel and supermodel Miranda Kerr surprised 285 art-school students with a graduation gift: paying off their college debt
Yaritza Velazquez-Medina, center, weeps as students at Otis College of Art and Design learn they no longer have college debt.Robert Gauthier/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images
  • Evan Spiegel and Miranda Kerr paid off the student-loan debt of 285 graduates of an LA art college.
  • Spiegel took summer classes at the school, Otis College of Art and Design, as a high schooler.
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Recent graduates of a Los Angeles art school saw their student-loan debt wiped out in a single day — and they have Evan Spiegel and Miranda Kerr to thank.

The Snap CEO and his wife, a supermodel and the founder of skincare brand Kora Organics, made a multimillion-dollar donation Sunday to Otis College of Art and Design. The donation will cover outstanding student debt for the 285 graduates in the class of 2022.

Otis College didn't reveal the exact amount of the donation other than to say in a press release that it's the largest single gift in the history of Otis College. The Los Angeles Times reported that it surpassed the previous largest donation of $10 million.

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"Student debt weighs heavily on our diverse and talented graduates," Charles Hirschhorn, the school's president, said in a statement. "We hope this donation will provide much-deserved relief and empower them to pursue their aspirations and careers, pay this generosity forward, and become the next leaders of our community."

Spiegel took summer classes at Otis College as a high schooler, prior to attending Stanford University and cofounding Snap, the Los Angeles Times reported.

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"It changed my life and made me feel at home," Spiegel told students at the school's graduation, according to the LA Times. "I felt pushed and challenged to grow surrounded by super talented artists and designers, and we were all in it together."

Spiegel and Kerr received honorary degrees from Otis College on Sunday alongside Bobby Berk, one of the hosts of Netflix's "Queer Eye." Berk wrote in an Instagram post that it was honor to sit next to Spiegel and Kerr as they announced they would pay off graduates' debt.

"What a beautiful moment watching the faces of those students and families as it sunk in that they are not only walking away with a degree that they worked so hard to get, but also walking away debt free," Berk wrote.

A post shared by Bobby Berk (@bobby)

Hope Mackey, a member of the school's class of 2022, told the LA Times that she immediately burst into tears after the news was announced.

"It's insane," she said. "I can't believe this is actually happening."

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Student-loan debt remains a $1.7 trillion crisis in the US — an estimated 43.4 million borrowers have federal student-loan debt. Students borrow an average of $30,030 to obtain a bachelor's degree at a public university, according to the Education Data Initiative, and some are facing a lifetime of debt.

Since March 2020, those with federal loans haven't had to make their payments and interest has been put on pause, a program that was recently extended until the end of August. The Biden administration also wants to forgive at least $10,000 of debt per borrower, though some progressive lawmakers were pushing for $50,000.

The White House confirmed earlier this month that Biden is considering tying loan forgiveness to income, with relief capped for individuals making less than $125,000 per year.

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