Snapchat Founder Evan Spiegel and Supermodel Miranda Kerr Will Pay the Student Debt of Otis College of Art’s Graduating Class
The donation exceeds $10 million, making it the largest in the school's history.
New graduates of the Otis College of Art and Design in Los Angeles received a pleasant surprise at their commencement this weekend when Snapchat co-founder Evan Spiegel and his wife, Miranda Kerr, founder of the beauty company Kora, pledged to erase their student loan.
The exact figure of the donation, which the couple is making through their Spiegel Family Fund, has not been named, but it exceeds $10 million.
“I am so grateful and so happy,” Yaritza Velazquez-Medina, a graphic design student graduating with about $70,000 in loans, told the Los Angeles Times. “It’s such a relief. It’s a weight off your shoulders.”
The school’s president, Charles Hirschhorn, revealed the donation—the largest in Otis history—to students and their families gathered at the Westin Los Angeles Airport Hotel for the occasion.
“We know that for most of you and your families the shared burden of student debt is a heavy price that you paid for an exceptional Otis College education,” he said. “We understand that this debt can compromise your future and limit your creative ambitions. We do not want to see this happen. We want to empower your imagination, your creativity and innovation.”
Spiegel, now 31, founded Snapchat in 2011 and became the world’s youngest billionaire in 2015, when he was 25. But long before his success in tech, Spiegel took summer classes at Otis during high school, counting it as a formative experience.
“It changed my life and made me feel at home.… I felt pushed and challenged to grow surrounded by super talented artists and designers, and we were all in it together,” Spiegel told the graduating class.
Founded in 1918, Otis was Los Angeles’s first professional arts school. Current coursework includes fine arts, digital media, environmental design, fashion design, and communication arts.
But with tuition at $49,110 a year for the coming school year, a full 92 percent of students rely on financial aid, and graduates leave with a median federal debt total of $27,000, according to the U.S. Department of Education.
The Spiegel Family Fund’s donation will be used to create two funds for the new graduating class: one for loans that have been certified through Otis’s financial aid office, and another that will go toward charitable gifts to students with independent loans.
Kerr and Spiegel are not the first to make such a generous gesture to college grads.
In 2019, billionaire Robert Smith donated $34 million to Morehouse College, the historically Black men’s school in Atlanta, to wipe out student loan debt for that year’s graduating class.
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