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NPR Arts & Life

Rihanna Launches College Scholarships For Foreign Students

Rihanna performing at the Coachella Festival in California in April 2016.
Rihanna performing at the Coachella Festival in California in April 2016.

In her song "American Oxygen," Rihanna sings, "On the other side of the ocean, you can be anything at all / in America, America."

Now the pop star and Barbados native is putting some of her money where her mouth is. On Monday she announced on Instagram the launch of a scholarship program to help citizens or natives of Brazil, Barbados, Cuba, Haiti, Grenada, Guyana and Jamaica attend college in the U.S.

According to the terms of the program, each selected first-year student will receive between $5,000 and $50,000, and the awards may be renewed until each grantee earns a bachelor's degree. What is unclear, however, is how much total money the foundation plans to disburse each year.

The program is being run by Rihanna's , a nonprofit she founded in 2012 that "works to improve the quality of life for communities globally in the areas of health, education, arts and culture." Rihanna's past high-profile charity work includes a donation of $1.75 million to a Barbadian hospital for their oncology program and her collaboration with the makeup company MAC on the ongoing Viva Glam campaign, which raises money for people living with and affected by HIV and AIDS. According to the Clara Lionel Foundation, sales of the first Rihanna lipstick raised $60 million in 2013.

Students from these countries are generally not well represented among the ranks of foreign students in the U.S., according to the Institute for International Education (IIE), a not-for-profit organization that helps facilitate international education and exchanges, including the revered Fulbright program. According to the IIE's 2015 data, fewer than 300 students from Barbados were studying in the U.S. during the 2014-15 school year; there were only 94 Cuban students.

Brazil actually ranks ranks sixth in these overall IIE figures, with 23,675 students in the U.S. during the 2014-15 academic year; still, that's less than 10% of the 304,040 students in the U.S. from China during the same period.

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