UCLA is once more in the news but this time it's because they offered Sean "Diddy" Combs's son Justin an athletic scholarship worth $54,000.00. Here is a student that is a talented football player and has a 3.75 GPA -- not too shabby. UCLA wants him to attend their school badly, thus the offer of aid he received. Certainly part of the reason they want him is based on his own merit, but it doesn't hurt that he has a famous father. A combination like that makes it a no brainer for UCLA to offer him what they did.
Enter public opinion; people are outraged that he should be offered a scholarship like this. They want Diddy to refuse the offer and pay for his son's education. The logic to the argument goes something like this: Diddy, whose net worth is $550 million, earned $45 million last year so his son doesn't need a scholarship to pay for school. Therefore, the money should go to a needy family to help them realize their dreams.
To look at this clearly let go back to Financial Aid 101. Scholarship money (or money that doesn't include loans) comes from a college via two paths: need based, meaning the family's earnings are such that they are eligible for free federal financial aid (Pell Grants), or merit based, meaning the student excelled in some way, thereby making them an attractive candidate to the school. Obviously, Justin did not "need" the money. His offer is merit based. Justin's high school credentials (GPA), combined with his ability to play football, and even who his father is, made him an attractive candidate for UCLA. There are no surprises here. Colleges give out merit based financial aid subjectively; the most attractive candidate is offered the most money.
Having Diddy's son or any high profile student at their school, especially playing football for them, will earn a lot of money for the school and most likely his father or Justin will become donors at the school following graduation. In many cases, scholarships are funded through donations made by alumni or money the college earns through their football programs. The potential return for the college and future students of UCLA is far greater if UCLA lands Justin as a student.
No, Justin doesn't need the scholarship; he can afford to attend any college he wants to. But there are thousands of students that are offered merit based aid they don't "need" every spring. What's happened here is not new and not wrong. Colleges are businesses and all businesses weigh the ROI of everything they do.
Instead of complaining that he shouldn't get a scholarship, students should do everything they can to make themselves an attractive candidate at the colleges they want to attend. Apply to colleges where they place in the top 25% academically, show a strong interest in something outside of their academics, take the hard classes in high school and perform well in them, and take AP classes where they can be invested in their future so colleges will invest in them. While we can't control who our parents are -- famous or not -- we can make sure to have the most attractive qualities that universities look for.