From billionaire Robert F. Smith paying off the student loans debt of 396 Morehouse College graduates to Oprah Winfrey donating $400 million to help students cover university costs, the tradition of black celebrities helping raise others has long been documented. Wealthy black personalities who have taken to funding others’ education through philanthropy are quite numerous, including Nigerian rapper Wale, LeBron James, Jay Z, Michael Jordan, Beyoncé, Janet Jackson and others. And the already crowded list just got a new addition.
Ghanaian rapper, Michael Ebenazer Owuo Jr. [known as Stormzy], has been credited with a surge in the rate of black students newly admitted at the University of Cambridge. This year, Cambridge offered ninety-one (91) new black students’ admission; an almost 50% increase from last year’s 61. This makes it the very first time in Cambridge’s history that over 200 black undergraduates would be studying on its campus.
This was largely attributed to the high-profile commitment made by the London-born rapper [net worth £16M] to fund the full tuition and accommodation of two new black students every year. In response to the news, Stormzy tweeted, “This is amazing. There’s no way that this is because of me alone. Big up Cambridge ACS for the incredible work they do they would [have] played a massive part in this. And big up Cambridge—Uni for [their] continued efforts.”
In 2018, Stormzy noted the dearth of black students at the top British universities, following official reports that some Oxford and Cambridge colleges did not admit a single black student between 2012 and 2016.
Stormzy, who was a spectacular student—he got six A*s, three As and three Bs in his GCSE exams—had always dreamt of studying at one of the top-tier universities in the country. His fellow black students, however, thought such feat was out of reach for them; and reserved for white students instead. He wanted to encourage young black academics that their dreams were realistic.
“I was always reminded by my teachers that I was destined, if I wanted, to go down that road and study at one of the top universities,” he said. “I diverted and ended up doing music, so it didn’t happen for me. I thought I was quite a rare case in that I knew that was possible. That’s not always the case. When students are young, academically brilliant and getting great grades, they should know that’s an option.”
According to Wanipa Ndhlovu, president of the university’s African-Caribbean Society (ACS), the announcement among other things, heightened the interests of black students to apply for admission to the university. She said the news “should send out a signal to other black students that they can find their place at Cambridge and succeed.”
Such philanthropy is not out of character for Stormzy. In 2017, he donated £9,000 to a crowdfunding initiative for a student who was looking to fund her Harvard fees.