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Nick Cannon Believes Higher Education Should Be for Everyone

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nick cannon-college-college education
Nick Cannon, Photo Courtesy of Debmar-Mercury

Rapper, comedian, and TV host Nick Cannon has been an advocate for higher education since receiving his degree from Howard University.


In 2021, Nick Cannon helped pay off seven college students’ debts on ‘The Nick Cannon Show.’“Everyone can understand the heaviness of college debt,” Cannon said. “If you want to give someone a head start in their post-college life, you erase all of the debt that you possibly can. From there, it’s a clean slate.”

Cannon has been an advocate for higher education since receiving his degree in criminology from Howard University in 2012. “Going back to school was something that I always aspired to,” he said. “Because of my career, I had to put college on the backburner. The opportunity to start my career at a young age and help provide for my family meant that I took that path, but education always important to me.”

Courtesy of Jocelyn Prescod

Becoming a father played a major role in Cannon’s decision to return to college. “Once I became a father and was talking to my children about their education, I knew I had to lead by example,” he said. “That’s when I tried my best to start my academic career.”

Howard had always been Cannon’s dream institution. “When you think of historically black colleges and universities, Howard University shines up there with the best of them,” he said. “It’s probably the one that everyone thinks of first. I just knew Howard University had such strong alumni, people like Stokely Carmichael and Frederick Douglass,” who sat on Howard’s Board of Trustees. “Even if they weren’t students, it was the culture that had been cultivated in that building. To be able to be there was truly the holy grail.”


Cannon didn’t know exactly what path he wanted to take when he began his studies at Howard in 2008, but he quickly found an interest in working with incarcerated youth. “A professor, Dr. Bahiyyah Muhammad, was running her own inside-out program in the prison systems in the D.C. area,” Cannon said. Cannon promptly changed his major from communication to criminology. “I was really trying to understand the flaws in our criminal justice system. I wanted to be more than just a celebrity who gives his opinion. I wanted to be someone who was educated in this space and understands criminology.”

Inside-out programs, which help incarcerated youth complete their education, perfectly combined Cannon’s interest in higher education and advocacy for those in the prison system. “Especially when it comes to young people that are being held with these long sentences — they’re being tried as an adult and we’re literally looking at kids who should be in school but instead are literally in cages,” Cannon said. “I wanted to be able to bring light to that work of second chances in reform.”

One of the biggest barriers for people getting a college education is student debt, which is why Cannon wanted to highlight the issue on “The Nick Cannon Show.” “The fact that so many people are experiencing the process of coming out of college, owing money and figuring out how to get on their feet, it’s already hard enough to figure out the right decisions that you make when starting your career,” he said. “To be able to help a few individuals — I wish I could do it some more — but to be able to be a part of a few individuals having a great head start was awesome.”


Cannon’s advice for people considering college is to be realistic about the financial plan and keep the end goal in mind. “We say education is the passport to the future,” he said. “We all know there’s financial ties that come with all of this, but there’s no investment like investing into yourself and into your own personal journey. I would encourage anyone who is thinking about college, I would always bet on yourself.”

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