NEW YORK, NY - AUGUST 28:  Jidenna attends the 2016 MTV Video Music Awards at Madison Square Garden on August 28, 2016 in New York City.  (Photo by Jamie McCarthy/Getty Images)
Jidenna on education policy
03:31 - Source: CNN

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"We're wasting our workforce. We're wasting brilliant minds," he said

Jidenna, a Stanford graduate, is a former teacher

Washington CNN  — 

Grammy Award nominee Jidenna said one of “the most imperative tasks” the next president can accomplish is making higher education affordable.

“I firmly believe that making higher education affordable is one of the most imperative tasks of the next president,” the singer told CNN. “So I’m excited in 2016 to see a candidate that I believe is going to take our emphasis on education really seriously.”

Jidenna, whose full name is Jidenna Mobisson, taught students from low-income households in New York City before becoming a full-time artist. He has since spoken on White House panels with first lady Michelle Obama about college affordability and is supporting Hillary Clinton in the 2016 race for the White House.

The Brooklyn resident said he regularly had high-achieving students who were not able to earn a college degree because of high tuition costs.

“I do not think that your access to education or your likelihood of success should be determined by your zip code or determined by your income,” Jidenna said. “We can’t do this. We’re wasting our workforce. We’re wasting brilliant minds. We have to invest in the children.”

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The recording artist’s father came to the US from rural Nigeria to study at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Jidenna, a Stanford graduate, spent part of his childhood in his father’s homeland where relatives, neighbors and other community members were deeply invested in his academic success.

“I think that’s something that the US, in a humble fashion, can look to other countries like Nigeria and actually learn a thing or two about the culture,” he said.

Excelling academically sometimes attracted negative attention from his peers, something Jidenna said his students also experienced.

“We live in a country right now where it’s not cool to be educated or smart,” he said. “I know that firsthand, being teased in class when I was a kid for getting an A.”

While making college more affordable should be a high priority for the country’s next leader, providing more opportunities for students not interested in a four-year degree is also worthwhile, Jidenna said.

“It’s great that we live in a nation where you don’t have to necessarily have a diploma to excel,” he said. “That’s actually something that’s very beautiful about America. We should continue that, for sure.”