Now more than ever, college is the key to success. Next time you're worried (or just curious) about the unemployment situation in America, compare the rates of joblessness by degree level. You'll find each benchmark of educational attainment marks an extraordinary quantum leap in economic security. Those who are already successful understand this. Even celebrities, who often attain their wealth and stature in less conventional ways, are increasingly tailoring their philanthropic efforts toward providing college scholarships. That way, they can lower the ladder of opportunity for kids to grab hold of. And the awesome thing about scholarships is that they come in all areas of studying including public relations, counseling, nursing, graphic design, real estate, and much more. Here are 10 superstars who are also super-generous in helping students achieve their dreams:
Letterman Telecommunications Scholarship at Ball State University
David Letterman of Late Show fame graduated from Ball State in Muncie, Ind. in 1970. After making it big, he established this scholarship in 1985 to go to students pursuing degrees in telecommunications. It is awarded for an original creative project, attributable to one person, which can be video, audio, or written material so long as it's connected to a career in telecommunications. Another condition is that Dave himself must be sent a copy. The award pays out $10,000 for first place, $5,000 for second place, and $3,333 for third place.
Will Rogers Memorial Scholarship at the University of Texas at Austin
A humorist of an earlier generation, cowboy raconteur Will Rogers, had this scholarship endowed in his name, beginning in 1939. It's based not on professional affinity, like Letterman's, but instead goes to UT students who are disabled or planning to work with the disabled.
The Bruce Lee Foundation Scholarship
This $1,000 award, endowed in honor of the legendary Kung Fu star, is given to students who "exemplify Bruce Lee's passion for education as well as his qualities of honest expression, forward thought, self-exploration, and assertiveness." A genuine interest in the award's namesake is only one criterion among many, though applicants must write an essay on one of four principles embodied by Lee, namely: "Using no way as way; having no limitation as limitation," "To change with change is the changeless state," "All knowledge ultimately is self-knowledge," or "Knowing is not enough, you must apply; willing is not enough, you must do."
Fred Rogers Memorial Scholarship Program
Not only does the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences give out the Emmy Awards, its foundation also administers this scholarship in honor of TV's Mister Rogers. Four $10,000 awards are given each year to undergraduate or graduate students pursuing careers in children's media. Though three of the scholarships are national, one of the four recipients must always be from Mr. Rogers' actual neighborhood: Pittsburgh.
will.i.am's i.am scholarship
The i.am.angel Foundation was created by Black Eyed Peas member will.i.am to create new opportunities for young minds growing up in settings that could use more money, access, and encouragement. It has opened a STEM-focused community learning center in the Boyle Heights neighborhood of Los Angeles, and a home foreclosure program that provides financial literacy education and assistance grants for homeowners. It has also partnered with Scholarship America, Oprah Winfrey's Angel Network, and College Track to award over half a million dollars in scholarships since 2009.
Seinfeld Scholarship Program
This is decidedly not a scholarship "about nothing." Jerry Seinfeld, who according to Forbes was making $267 million per season at Seinfeld's peak (and it's still earning plenty in syndication) decided to give back to the city he epitomized, with a scholarship program that gives at least a dozen New York City public school students each year an award of up to $10,000 based on academic success, community service, and need.
The John Lennon Scholarship
This scholarship, set up by Yoko Ono in 1997, is awarded to songwriters and composers between the ages of 17 and 24 currently studying at U.S. colleges. Three awards are given every year, totaling $20,000, on the strength of original songs submitted to the competition, which is administered by the BMI Foundation.
The Christopher Reeve Award
This $1,000 college scholarship, co-sponsored by The Heart of America FoundationÂ® and Merriam-Webster, Inc., is given to one high school student each year "who has demonstrated tremendous compassion and caring in serving his or her community." This is a suitable tribute to the Superman actor who, after being paralyzed, devoted the remainder of life to stem-cell and disability activism.
Alec Baldwin Scholarship Fund at New York University
30 Rock star Alec Baldwin, like many showbiz greats, was a graduate of NYU's Tisch School of the Arts, and he decided to pay it forward by endowing his alma mater with a scholarship to make success possible for other aspiring thespians. Financial need is considered, and students should, "in addition to talent, exhibit an unwavering work ethic, leadership skills, a willingness to collaborate, and an ability to tolerate risk and work with constructive criticism."
The Shawn Carter Scholarship Foundation
Shawn Carter, better known as Jay-Z, started his own educational foundation to give underserved youth the kind of above-board opportunities he once lacked. The scholarship is given to all kinds of students nationwide, "in spite of many personal, socio-economic setbacks, including teen pregnancy, former incarceration, interrupted schooling, and homelessness." The awards range from $1500 to $2500 and recipients can reapply annually, with the proviso that they "are required to 'give back' by conducting community service and by serving as mentors to younger, aspiring Shawn Carter Scholars."