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Billionaire pledges to pay student debt for 2019 class

Level 2 l Upper intermediate


1 Warmer
Match the American words with their definitions.

1. college a. a third-year student (one year before the final year)


2. senior b. main subject
3. major c. a final-year student
4. junior d. university

2 Key words
Complete the sentences using these key words from the text. The paragraph numbers are given to
help you.

honorary spreadsheet eliminate sibling donate


weep burden stunned pledge profound

1. If you ___________________ something that is not wanted or needed, you get rid of it. (para 1)
2. If you are ___________________, you are so shocked that you can hardly speak. (para 1)
3. An ___________________ degree is given to someone to recognize them because of their work or something
important they have done; they have not earned the degree in the usual way. (para 2)
4. A ___________________ is a serious and public promise to do something. (para 2)
5. A ___________________ is a chart produced on a computer that shows numbers in a way that makes them
easy to compare. (para 3)
6. If you ___________________, you cry because you feel unhappy or have some other strong emotion. (para 3)
7. A ___________________ is a serious or difficult responsibility that you have to deal with. (para 3)
8. A ___________________ is your brother or sister. (para 4)
9. If you ___________________, you give money to an organization, especially to a school, hospital, political
party or charity. (para 8)
10. If something has a ___________________ effect, it has a serious impact on people or on something else.
(para 9)

3 Find the information


Find the following information in the text as quickly as possible.

1. How many graduating students did Robert F Smith speak to?


2. How many generations of Robert F Smith’s family have been in the USA?
3. According to estimates, how much money has Robert F Smith promised to pay to eliminate the student debt of
the 2019 class?
4. What is the total unpaid student debt in the USA?
5. What are HBCUs?
6. What job did Robert F Smith train for?
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NEWS LESSONS / Billionaire pledges to pay student debt for 2019 class / Upper intermediate
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Billionaire pledges to pay student debt for 2019 class
Level 2 l Upper intermediate
Billionaire pledges to pay student 6 There is a distinction between commitments to
debt for 2019 class at historic black tuition-free college and debt-free college, but
Warren is not alone in focusing on the cost of
US college further education. The Vermont senator Bernie
Martin Pengelly Sanders, for example, focused on it in 2016
19 May, 2019 and is doing so again in 2019. Among other
candidates, Kirsten Gillibrand of New York has
1 Delivering a speech to graduate students at
said she will allow students to refinance debt
Morehouse College in Atlanta, where Martin
at a lower interest rate, while Kamala Harris of
Luther King Jr was a student, the billionaire
California said “we need a commitment to debt-
technology investor Robert F Smith made
free college, which I support”.
a surprise announcement: his family would
eliminate the student debt of the entire class 7 Pete Buttigieg, the mayor of South Bend, Indiana,
of 2019. The nearly 400 graduating seniors has released a proposal to make college
reacted with a moment of stunned silence, then, debt-free for low-income students. It read:
unsurprisingly, the biggest cheers of the morning. “Historically Black Colleges and Universities
(HBCUs) and Minority-Serving Institutions (MSIs)
2 “On behalf of the eight generations of my family
are vital for this country and our communities,
that have been in this country, we’re going to
and deserve to receive more direct support.”
put a little fuel in your bus,” Smith said. “This is
my class, 2019. And my family is making a grant 8 Morehouse is an all-male HBCU. Smith, who is
to eliminate their student loans.” Smith, who African American, is an engineer by training who
received an honorary doctorate in the ceremony, has also donated to Cornell University in New
had already announced a $1.5m gift to the York. He also studied at Columbia. As founder
college. The pledge to eliminate student debt for and chief executive of Vista Equity Partners,
the 2019 class was estimated at $40m. a private company that invests in technology
companies, he is 355th on the 2019 Forbes list of
3 Aaron Mitchom, a 22-year-old finance major,
richest Americans.
said he had drawn up a spreadsheet to calculate
how long it would take him to pay back $200,000 9 Morehouse president, David A Thomas, said
in student loans. It came to 25 years at half Smith’s gift would have a profound effect.
his monthly salary, he said. In an instant, that “Many of my students,” he said, “are interested
number vanished. Mitchom wept. “I can delete in becoming teachers, for example, but leave
that spreadsheet,” he said. “I was shocked. We all with an amount of student debt that makes that
cried. In the moment, a burden had been removed.” impossible. In some ways, it was a liberation gift
for these young men that just opened up their
4 His mother, Tina Mitchom, was also shocked.
choices.”
Eight family members, she said, including
Mitchom’s 76-year-old grandmother, took turns 10 Tonga Releford, a parent of a Morehouse
over four years to take out the loans that got student, said her son’s student loans totalled
their student across the finish line. “It takes a lot about $70,000. “I feel like it’s my birthday all over
of people,” she said. “It now means he can give again,” she said. Her husband, Charles Releford
something in return and give back to the college II, also a Morehouse graduate, said their younger
and maybe for his younger siblings.” son was a junior. “Maybe Smith will come back
next year,” he said.
5 Unpaid student debt in the US, which was $1.5tn
in 2018, has become a major national problem. © Guardian News and Media 2019
The federal education department has rejected First published in The Guardian, 19/05/19
99% of applications for student debt forgiveness.
The issue has now become a point of contention
in the Democratic presidential primary. In April,
2019, the Massachusetts senator Elizabeth
Warren was praised when she published a plan
to cancel much student debt and make public
college free, funded by a tax on the super-rich.
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NEWS LESSONS / Billionaire pledges to pay student debt for 2019 class / Upper intermediate
CA O
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Billionaire pledges to pay student debt for 2019 class
Level 2 l Upper intermediate
4 Comprehension check
Are these statements true (T) or false (F) according to the text?

1. The 400 graduating students were surprised by Robert F Smith’s announcement.


2. One student estimated it would take him 25 years to pay back his student loan.
3. All the Democratic presidential candidates have the same policy on student debt.
4. Robert F Smith became wealthy by working as an engineer.
5. More than half the students at Morehouse College are female.
6. Student debt makes it impossible for some students to become teachers.

5 Find the word


Find the following words and phrases in the text.

1. a noun meaning an amount of money that the government or an organization gives you for a specific purpose
and does not ask you to pay back (para 2)
2. a two-word phrasal verb meaning prepare something such as a document or a plan (para 3)
3. a three-word prepositional phrase meaning happening almost immediately (para 3)
4. a verb meaning not agree to a proposal or request (para 5)
5. a three-word noun phrase meaning something that causes disagreement between people or groups (para 5)
6. a noun meaning a difference between two things (para 6)
7. a verb meaning replace one loan with another one on which you pay less interest (para 6)
8. an adjective meaning very important, necessary or essential (para 7)

6 Two-word phrases
Match the words in the left-hand column with those in the right-hand column to make expressions from
the text.

1. student a. effect
2. further b. doctorate
3. profound c. salary
4. interest d. loan
5. honorary e. rate
6. monthly f. education
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NEWS LESSONS / Billionaire pledges to pay student debt for 2019 class / Upper intermediate
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Billionaire pledges to pay student debt for 2019 class
Level 2 l Upper intermediate
7 Word-building
Complete the table using words from the text.

verb noun
1. apply
2. announce
3. lend
4. invest (person)
5. give
6. forgive

8 Discussion
Discuss the statements.

• All education should be free to everyone.


• Education is an investment in the future.

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NEWS LESSONS / Billionaire pledges to pay student debt for 2019 class / Upper intermediate
CA O
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Billionaire pledges to pay student debt for 2019 class
Level 2 l Upper intermediate
KEY

1 Warmer 5 Find the word

1. d 1. grant
2. c 2. draw up
3. b 3. in an instant
4. a 4. reject
5. point of contention
6. distinction
2 Key words 7. refinance
8. vital
1. eliminate
2. stunned
3. honorary 6 Two-word phrases
4. pledge
5. spreadsheet 1. d
6. weep 2. f
7. burden 3. a
8. sibling 4. e
9. donate 5. b
10. profound 6. c

3 Find the information 7 Word-building

1. nearly 400 1. application


2. eight 2. announcement
3. $40 million 3. loan
4. $1.5 trillion 4. investor
5. historically black colleges and universities 5. gift
6. engineer 6. forgiveness

4 Comprehension check

1. T
2. T
3. F
4. F
5. F
6. T
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© Springer Nature Limited 2019. Macmillan Education is part of the Springer Nature Group.
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NEWS LESSONS / Billionaire pledges to pay student debt for 2019 class / Upper intermediate
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