Basketball superstar LeBron James has made a surprise announcement that students across England and Wales could only dream of – he has promised to foot the cost of university fees for 1,100 young people for the full four years.
Speaking to more than 6,000 students and parents at a theme park in Ohio, Cedar Point, James – along with President Scott Scarborough of the University of Akron (UA) – the athlete said those who complete his I PROMISE programme will not have to worry about costly tuition fees.
Along with his mother, the athlete began The LeBron James Family Foundation as a way of giving back to the community in Akron and the I PROMISE programme sees disadvantaged pupils graduate from a local public high school and meet – and pass – various testing and community service criteria.
Currently, tuition fees at UA cost around $9,500 (£6,060) a year, meaning, all in all, the basketball star looks set to part with a potential $41.8m (£26.7m) for students beginning at the university come 2021.
Speaking with the Today news team, James said: “If I can put 1,100 kids into college free, that means I'll have done something.”
Dr Scarborough also announced that, after this group makes it through the I PROMISE programme into university, the next four classes after them will also benefit from James’ pledge.
Speaking of the importance of education, Dr Scarborough said the university was proud to be affiliated with the Foundation and also spoke about how his grandfather moved his entire family to be near a university – and worked long hours – so that he could fulfil his ambition to graduate.
He said his grandfather “unlocked the door to the American Dream, then held it open for others in our family” as he paid for them all to go to university. Dr Scarborough credited his grandfather for putting him into the position he is in today.
Urging the young people in the crowd to take full advantage of the opportunity before them, he advised them to “work hard and stay on track.”
The announcement has come shortly after it was revealed in local media that UA has been troubled financially and is being forced to make cuts of up to $40m (£25.5m).
The university has since said it will rename its College of Education to the LeBron James Family Foundation College of Education as a mark of gratitude to the sportsman’s move.
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