It’s something every college student and maybe their parents dream of hearing: a donor wiping out student loans.

Suhey Elias was one of 285 graduates who had their college debt completely paid off, thanks to the largest donation in school history.

The gift came from Snapchat Co-Founder Evan Spiegel and his wife Miranda Kerr.  Spiegel took summer classes at Otis College of Art and Design while in high school before attending Stanford and launching Snapchat, making him the world’s youngest billionaire in 2015.

“I was just screaming. I looked at everyone around me. We were all crying. I believe it’s something that I will never, ever forget, ever,” Elias said.

She majored in fine arts with an emphasis in painting and commuted every morning from Altadena. Her parents said they would cover loans and the cost of college so she could focus on her artwork. Then, her mother died during her freshman year, leaving the financial responsibility to her father.

“He had to take two jobs, do Uber. It was a lot for him, so to hear that everything got paid off, it really meant a lot to me,” Elias said.


The donation wiped out her $60,000 in student loans. According to Otis College, more than 90% of students receive financial aid.

“When I came here, I was very [into] acrylic paint, nothing else, but now I’m leaving here sculpting now with clay or working with oil paints, or sewing even,” she said.

Elias has a passion for making dioramas, completely handcrafted. As part of her senior project, she took stories from family members and turned them into works of art.

“After like a very stressful day, I can just pull out a sketchbook and sketch out or I can paint my little figurines or paint my paintings. I feel relaxed. I feel at ease. I feel like, ‘Phew, it’s going to be OK,’” she said.

And in a way, Elias feels she’s also honoring her mother, who aspired to be a fashion designer.

“Since I’m here, I’m sort of living her dream of being an art student. It’s very touching,” she said.

And without student loans weighing her down, she’s able to focus on her next steps — working with the Gong Art Gallery in Newport Beach to display some of her art for the world to see.