From Nicki Minaj to Alec Baldwin: the stars paying for students’ education

The rapper offered to pay fans’ college fees via Twitter – but she’s not the first celebrity to provide financial assistance for school studies

Forget the bank of mum and dad. In the age of broken promises and soaring tuition fees, could it be that the best way to get an education is via the bank of Beyoncé and Baldwin? Nicki Minaj is the latest celebrity to offer to pay fans’ college fees, inviting her 20 million Twitter followers to “Show me straight As that I can verify w/ur school and I’ll pay it. Who wants to join THAT contest?!?!” Judging by the 25,000 retweets and her promise to “do some more in a month or 2”, an extended world tour may be impending.

Thankfully, in a world where the annual cost of getting an education regularly runs into five figures, there are many more celebrity scholarships out there …

Formation Scholars

To mark the one year anniversary of the release of Lemonade, Beyoncé announced four scholarships awarded to four US colleges to “encourage and support young women who are unafraid to think outside the box and are bold, creative, conscious and confident”. The scholarship is open to female students pursuing studies in creative arts, music, literature or African-American studies.

Beyonce’s scholarships are named after a track from her Lemonade album.
Beyonce’s scholarships are named after a track from her Lemonade album. Photograph: GC Images/James Devaney scholarship

Providing “future visionaries, leaders and innovators with financial assistance” since 2009,’s scholarship covers all expenses associated with higher education, including tuition, books, fees, room and board, for a maximum of four years studying at an accredited US institution. Since its inception it has awarded $550,000 to 37 scholars.

Oprah Winfrey Scholarship

An endowment fund targeting existing scholarship programmes focusing on ethnic minorities, especially women, who lack the funds to go through college. The Oprah Winfrey Foundation has, for example, awarded $2.5m (£1.9m) to New York University’s Wagner School to allow women from African countries to pursue graduate studies in public policy and management.

Alec Baldwin Drama Scholarship Fund

In 2009, Baldwin donated $1m (£770,000) to his alma mater, New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts, to establish a drama scholarship fund providing assistance to students with high artistic talent from disadvantaged families, or those who are the first in their families to attend college or university.

Kevin Spacey Foundation scholarship

Open to undergraduates in performing arts and film, the KSF scholarships are tied to Regent’s University in London and Pace University in New York. There are 13 scholarships available in London worth £30,000 over three years and seven at Pace covering $10,000 (£7,700) of tuition.

The Kevin Spacey Foundation scholarships are available in the UK and the US.
The Kevin Spacey Foundation scholarships are available in the UK and the US. Photograph: Reuters/Kevin Lamarque

George RR Martin Screenwriting award

The Game of Thrones creator offers $5,000 (£3,850) a year via the New Mexico Film Foundation to exceptional filmmakers focusing on science fiction and fantasy genres and specifically writing for television. Applicants must submit a five-page treatment and sample script.

Rihanna Global Scholarship program

In 2016, Rihanna announced on Instagram that through her Clara Lionel Foundation she would award citizens of Brazil, Barbados, Cuba, Haiti, Grenada, Guyana or Jamaica between $5,000 (£3,850) and a whopping $50,000 (£38,500) to put towards their college education in the US. Successful applicants must contribute a personal essay, display “unusual personal or family circumstances”, have already been accepted into college, and maintain a 2.5 GPA throughout their degree.

Letterman Telecommunications Scholarship

This one has been going since 1985 at Ball State University, NY, the alma mater of David Letterman who graduated in 1969. Creativity is considered over grades, which is unusual for scholarship criteria (Letterman himself was a C student), and telecommunications students are required to submit a project in their chosen field of interest. The main award is $10,000 (£7,700) with two runner-ups winning $5,000 (£3,850) and $3,333 (£2,570) respectively.


Chitra Ramaswamy

The GuardianTramp

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