Last week, Lebron James won praise for expanding his charitable efforts to campus. The Lebron James Family Foundation announced plans to pay for four years of tuition at the University of Akron for more than 2,000 students.
While the basketball star’s new program will be one of the widest reaching, he’s hardly the first celebrity to push the "school is cool" mantra—and to put his money where his mouth is.
Dozens of celebrities have created scholarships at their alma maters. Several, such as Alec Baldwin’s new one at the Tisch School of the Arts at New York University or Aerosmith’s for Berklee College of Music students, are pegged to aspiring entertainers. Others, like Lebron’s, are focused on broadly increasing access for at-risk students.
Here are seven of the most generous celebrity scholarships, and what you’d have to do to have a shot at snagging one.
For advice on scholarships and other ways to pay to college, check out the MONEY College Planner.
Letterman Telecommunications Scholarship
One of the best-known celebrity scholarships, David Letterman’s has given money to students at his alma mater, Ball State University, every year since the mid-1980s. Grades aren’t considered, but creativity is, and telecommunications students are required to submit a project to apply. The winner receives $10,000, and there are also smaller checks for two runners-up. More information
In 2009, musician will.i.am surprised four students on the Oprah show with money to send them to college. Since then, his i.am.angel foundation has spent more than $800,000 to pay for the tuition, books, and fees of 31 students. The foundation focuses on education and college accessibility for low-income families and underserved communities, like his old neighborhood of Boyle Heights in East Los Angeles. The college scholarship is based on financial need. More information
Rhythm Nation Scholarship
Janet Jackson’s endowed scholarship with the UNCF gives out awards of up to $5,000 to students at one of the fund's 37 member schools, all of which are historically black colleges or universities. Recipients have to demonstrate academic achievement or active involvement in their school or community. Bonus opportunity: Janet Jackson’s late brother, Michael Jackson, has a similar scholarship in his name through the UNCF. More information
Kevin Spacey Foundation Scholarship
The acclaimed actor says that people who’ve been successful in their fields have an obligation to “send the elevator back down” to help others reach the same heights. That’s why his awards are tied specifically to performing arts and film programs at two universities: Regent’s University London and Pace University in New York. Eligibility depends on the university and academic program, but in general, there are 13 scholarships available at Regent’s School of Drama, Film & Media that are worth £30,000 each over three years, and seven one-year scholarships at Pace covering $10,000 of tuition. More information
Turn 2 Foundation Scholarship
Derek Jeter’s foundation, which encourages young people to "turn 2" healthy choices instead of drugs and alcohol, includes at least five college fund programs. For one, the beloved Yankees star teams up with the foundation of another baseball great for the Jackie Robinson/Derek Jeter Scholarship, which provides money and mentors for minority students. Another one, the United Negro College Fund/Sharlee Jeter Scholarship gives $30,000 over four years to students attending historically black colleges or universities. Other Jeter scholarships are defined by geography for students in areas of New York, Michigan, and Florida, and primarily given based on leadership, academic excellence, and participation in extra-curricular activities and community service. More information
Shawn Carter Scholarship
Taking its name from the real one of hip-hop mogul Jay-Z, the Shawn Carter Scholarship Fund gives a number of one-year scholarships. The amounts vary but are generally worth between $1,500 and $2,500. Students must have a minimum GPA of 2.0 and can attend any accredited two-year, four-year, or trade school. The foundation, co-founded by Jay-Z and his mom, says it considers many factors when choosing winners, including leadership, community service, and financial need. More information
Kirk Douglas Scholarship
Today's college students may not all know who film legend Kirk Douglas is—his most famous titles are now more than half a century old—but students at St. Lawrence University can still benefit from his generosity. Douglas and his wife, Anne, have donated $7.5 million to his alma mater for a scholarship they started in 1999. The award, meant to promote diversity on campus, is for students from underrepresented and low-income backgrounds who excel in academics and leadership. It's a comprehensive scholarship, meaning it covers all tuition, fees, and room and board for four years. More information