But for Khalil Downey, who walked across the stage last weekend in Atlanta, his shot at a debt-free college education almost didn't happen.
“At the end of his speech, when he said that, jaws dropped,” Downey said, talking about the moment Morehouse graduate and speaker Robert Smith pledged to pay off graduates' student loans.
Here’s the thing — he was supposed to graduate a year ago. Downey said he now realizes the delay was likely divine intervention.
"It was just unbelievable," he said. "And the first thing I did before I clapped was text my mom, like, wait a minute. Like, did you hear that correctly? It was crazy.”
Downey was paying out-of-pocket and had more than $200,000 in loans. He wasn’t even supposed to be part of the 2019 class.
Confusion over the transfer of an online class meant his C-minus grade in one class wasn’t accepted. He needed a “C”.
So, he wasn’t allowed to graduate in 2018 and had to wait until 2019. But it opened the door to his biggest blessing.
"All along God had a plan," he said. "It’s not even me. I don’t get no credit for it. I give all the credit to my mom, but most importantly that’s all God, bro.”
Starting his professional life debt free changes more than his life.
"From here we can go on to create generational wealth for our kids and their kids. This is a huge burden uplifted and it’s hard to put into words.”
Khalil now has a full-time job working with Shelby County Schools.
He says he will use his work there to help and inspire others.