Okay ladies, let’s get those grades — and higher salaries at work — in formation.
On the anniversary of her groundbreaking “Lemonade” album, Beyoncé made an announcement: not another surprise album, but a college scholarship program for four lucky students.
The Formation Scholars program is seeking to financially support four young women who “are unafraid to think outside the box and are bold, creative, conscious and confident” and are pursuing studies in “creative arts, music, literature or African-American studies.” Four schools are participating in the program: Berklee College of Music, Howard University, Parsons School of Design and Spelman College.
Berklee president said that Beyoncé was a role model whose “original all-female band included a current professor and two Berklee alumnae. Beyoncé’s support for a female student studying at the Boston or Valencia campus will have an impact on the global music industry.”
The details are still forthcoming about each particular college’s Formation award, but for Spelman, the award will be worth $25,000, an amount that can cover about one semester of tuition.
Degrees lead to more high-paying jobs
The scholarship is notable because it’s an acknowledgement of the power of education from one of the most powerful women in the world. Beyoncé did not attend college herself. She even once sang a song that questioned what you could get out of it: “Who needs a degree when you’re schoolin’ life?”
As a Grammy-award winning musician who has built a career independent women everywhere can admire, she’s done well without a college degree.
But recognizing that not every person has been given her opportunities — or her extraordinary talent — the college skeptic has changed her tune.
In that, Beyoncé joins other influential figures in supporting the cause of the moment: education.
Chance the Rapper and Mark Zuckerberg are other successful leaders who did not attend college themselves but are investing in schools, because they see schools as the training ground to earning better futures. This past March, Chance the Rapper donated $1 million to Chicago Public Schools as a “call to action,” wanting Chicago’s children to “have quality learning experiences that include the arts.”
The powerful skeptics of college educations
Still, some prominent people remain skeptical about the usefulness of college, either because of its cost or its curriculum.
Investor and entrepreneur Peter Thiel has created a different kind of fellowship to support innovation. Under the Thiel Foundation, he tempts college students under 20 with $100,000 if they drop out of school and work towards scientific and technical innovations instead. “Thiel fellows will change the world and call it a senior thesis,” Thiel said. But critics disagree with the premise. Harvard President Larry Summers called it “the single most misdirected bit of philanthropy in this decade.”
It’s true that college is overpriced and can be prohibitively expensive for all but the richest families. CNBC found that the average cost of tuition at a private, four-year university $31,231, which is up from the$1,832 it cost to get a four-year degree in the ’70s.
Meanwhile, student-loan debt in the U.S. numbers over $1 trillion.
But it’s also true that multiple studies have shown that education leads to higher-paying job opportunities. Brookings Institution found that 75% of people earning more than $100,000 were college graduates while those with only a high school diploma were twice as likely to make under $40,000 as those with a college degree.
Beyoncé, a powerful businesswoman, respects the power of getting paid. In her song Formation, she encourages women to think positively of earning more money: “Always stay gracious,” she urged. “Your best revenge is your paper.”
Given how necessary a degree is to earn a middle-class income, however, scholarship programs from celebrities can only be stopgaps to help more people obtain education.