One year later, Los Angeles college grads reflect on eliminating their student debt.

the Angels — In May 2022, graduation day for seniors at the Otis College of Art and Design in Los Angeles arrived with dreams and debt.

Suhey Elias, a former student, told CBS News that she would graduate with $60,000 to $65,000 in debt. Her classmate, Keila Medina Villanueva, said she was between $50,000 and $60,000 in debt.

His commencement speaker was Snapchat co-founder and billionaire Evan Spiegel, who had taken classes at Otis years earlier.

“You have everything you need to chase your dreams,” Spiegel told the graduates in his speech.

Everything, perhaps, except pennies from heaven. What followed, however, was pretty close.

Snapchat co-founder Evan Spiegel receives an honorary doctorate, as does his wife Miranda Kerr, at the Otis College of Art and Design commencement ceremonies on May 15, 2022, where graduating students learned of that Spiegel and Kerr would pay off all their student loans.

Robert Gauthier/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images

“And I said to my friend, ‘What, are they going to pay off our student loans?'” Villanueva told CBS News this week. “Joking”.

Charles Hirschhorn, president of Otis, took the stage and announced that Spiegel and his wife, businesswoman Miranda Kerr, would make the largest single donation in school history through their nonprofit Spiegel Family Fund, to pay off all student loan debt for the graduation of 2022. class.

The students were in shock.

“They were right in front of me and they were all gasping,” Hirschhorn recalled.

“My jaw dropped,” Villanueva said. “I was like, what?”

“What just happened?” Elias said, remembering his reaction. “I just said, ‘Oh my gosh.'”

The donation totaled at least $10 million, the school said.

About 70% of college graduates owe student loans, according to the nonprofit research group Urban Institute. About half of borrowers still owe $20,000 or more 20 years after entering school, according to data from the Education Data Initiative.

The gift from Spiegel and Kerr allowed Suhey to focus on his painting.

“I might have had to put my dream aside and just focus on the loans,” Suhey said. “But now I can do what I love.”

Villanueva had been working at McDonald’s, but is now making pottery and selling it at art shows. With her student debt paid off, she is paying it off and looking to teach art in low-income communities.

“The bills would be the ones that would decide what I did next,” Villanueva said. “Now I am the one who decides.”

The issue of student loans has taken center stage amid Washington’s debt ceiling negotiations. The bill advances in Congress would end the federal student loan repayment pause that began during the COVID-19 pandemic.

In addition, the Biden administration’s student loan forgiveness plan, proposed in August 2022, it is currently before the Supreme Court, with a decision expected soon. The plan would cancel up to $20,000 in student loan debt for millions of Americans. The Senate on Thursday voted to end the pardon planbut President Biden has said he will veto that effort.