Justin Combs graduated from high school this month from Iona Prep in New Rochelle, N.Y., located in the suburbs of New York City. His talent and hard work earned him a football scholarship to UCLA starting in the fall. Yet, Justin is different than most football recruits. His father is rap mogul, Sean “Diddy” Combs, who happens to be one of the wealthiest and most famous people in the U.S. Critics are now attacking Justin for accepting the scholarship offer when his father could easily afford the $54,000 annual tuition.
A Division I football scholarship is a significant achievement. There are roughly 250,000 high school seniors playing football each year and only 1,500 or so will receive a scholarship to a BCS school. Telling Justin that he shouldn’t accept the scholarship diminishes the time and energy he spent to make himself a better football player. Justin is no dumb jock either judging by his 3.75 GPA. He took to Twitter this week to defend his scholarship. “Regardless what the circumstances are, I put that work in!!!! PERIOD,” he wrote.
The hoopla over Justin’s scholarship revolves around Diddy’s vast wealth, which was estimated at $550 million in the latest Forbes Five list of hip-hop’s wealthiest artists. Diddy built his fortune over a nearly two decade career that started when he founded Bad Boy Records in 1993. One of his latest ventures is the Diageo-backed Ciroc vodka brand that saw sales jump 122% last year. He gave Justin a $360,000 silver Maybach when Justin turned 16.
The scholarship situation is receiving even more attention because of the budget crisis that California currently finds itself in. The Golden State faces a $16 billion shortfall and education, including public universities like UCLA, are expected to see $6 billion in funding cuts.
“Unlike need-based scholarships, athletic scholarships are awarded to students strictly on the basis of their athletic and academic ability — not their financial need,” according to a statement released by UCLA on Wednesday. “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.”
Diddy could afford his son’s education 1,000 times over, but what is the cut-off then where wealthy parents should turn down scholarships? Should it be assets of $100 million? $10 million? $1 million? Diddy has made a fortune in business, but the UCLA scholarship is an accomplishment by his son. Justin should be lauded for putting in the work to get a scholarship and not lambasted for accepting it. Don’t wealthy parents want their children to work hard and not just assume they can fall back on their parents’ money?
To read the entire story by Kurt Badenhausen, go to Forbes