Jordan Long is attending a community college in the Oakland, California, area after he was forced to transfer out of Morehouse College in Atlanta as a sophomore in 2017 to avoid adding to a $60,000 student debt bill.
So when the 22-year-old learned that billionaire investor Robert F. Smith pledged to pay off student debt for the entire Morehouse graduating class of 2019 over the weekend, needless to say, he's been processing some complicated feelings.
"My jaw dropped. I was in a state of shock and also happiness," Long told BuzzFeed News. "Happiness for my friends and late seniors who are graduating and getting their debt paid off ... but also sadness, and, like, Dang, that could have been me."
Long said he's still in touch with good friends he made while he was a class of 2019 student at Morehouse, so he texted his congratulations, but he wasn't sure how he felt about his own academic and financial standings.
"Do I want to ignore this whole thing, or talk about it?" Long said he asked himself. "I wanted to talk about it."
Despite tweeting about how he felt with a twinge of dark Twitter humor ("kill me," he joked on Sunday), Long had some serious sociopolitical thoughts he wanted to share about the matter.
Long said his choice to drop out of Morehouse, an HBCU he was excited to attend, was entirely a financial one, and what he believes is the result of a larger, failing institutional problem in the US.
"Me coming from Oakland to the South, it was a lot of big changes," he said. "It was a lot of financial pressure."
His mom, a first-generation college attendee, also had to drop out of her school for financial reasons.
"If these other billionaires paid their fair shares [of taxes], I wouldn’t have had to drop out," he said.
Long believes that while the Morehouse class of 2019 that he would have otherwise been tracked to graduate with is extremely lucky, not all students can live with a "fairytale syndrome," he said.
"I was making the best decision for me at the time," he said. "It was about this debt and not thinking a random ... prince is going to come save me and kill the dragon. We have to take the dragon down ourselves — the billionaire dragon."
He said Smith's gesture is nice, but not a solution.
"If you stab someone in the back, pulling the knife out isn't healing," he said, paraphrasing a famous Malcolm X quote. "When you're not paying your fair share and you're giving selectively, you're not healing."
While people online are tweeting their condolences to Long for an unfortunate circumstance, he said he's more focused on reforming the system that he believes put him in the position he's in.
The current system is only punishing "humans trying to get an education," he noted. And black students who attend HBCUs are on average leaving school with higher amounts of student debt because those institutions disproportionately receive lower amounts of funding and endowments.
He wants others who are struggling to pay off or avoid mounting student debt to get politically active as well.
"The biggest plan, besides getting advice, is also being politically active and making sure we get people in office who are going to attack and fight this debt," he said. "You have to make sure everyone gets an education regardless of their wealth and race."
Jordan Long's mother was forced to drop out of college entirely. A previous version of this post erroneously reported that she had transferred.