Less than a year after Diddy’s son, Justin Combs, committed to play football at UCLA, some consumers are raising questions over whether the well-heeled freshman should turn over his $54,000 scholarship to students who need it more.
In an interview with CNN, education contributor Dr. Steve Perry defended Combs’ merit-based scholarship, saying he earned it fair and square. At the Upstate New York prep school where Combs recently graduated, he maintained a 3.75 GPA while playing cornerback for the football team.
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“He’s done what he needs to do to be successful and in ‘Ameritocracy’ we have to accept that no matter who your father is, whether he be rich, poor or absent, that you can in fact be successful on your own merit,” Perry said.
There’s no denying Diddy can afford to send his son to college. The entertainment mogul was recently named the wealthiest artist in hip hop by Forbes Magazine, so far adding $45 million to his empire in 2012 alone.
But Combs’ scholarship, which is awarded to student athletes specifically, is one of about 285 full athletic scholarships UCLA awards each year, according to a statement issued Wednesday.
Still, some students are balking, calling on the athletic department to reconsider the scholarship altogether.
“UCLA’s athletic department needs to consider the fact that perhaps there is another athlete on the football team, who could perhaps really use this scholarship,” UCLA student Neshemah Keetin told CBS Los Angeles.
In its response to criticism over the award, UCLA stressed its “robust financial aid program,” 30 percent of which it said is funded by tuition and fee revenue:
“Unlike need-based scholarships, athletic scholarships are awarded to students strictly on the basis of their athletic and academic ability — not their financial need. Athletic scholarships, such as those awarded to football or basketball players, do not rely on state funds. Instead, these scholarships are entirely funded through UCLA Athletics ticket sales, corporate partnerships, media contracts and private donations from supporters,” the statement said.
College tuition has been a hot-button issue amongst consumer advocates in recent years, as the average tuition rate has swollen to $50,000 per year and the nation faces a trillion-dollar student loan debt bubble.
UCLA became a focal point in the Occupy Wall Street protests, with students rallying against a planned 16 percent tuition fee hike. In April, the school was forced to clawback $27 million in financial aid accidentally deposited into students’ accounts.
Combs has made no announcement regarding plans to give back the scholarship at this time.