One-time mayor of New York City Michael R. Bloomberg said he will donate $1.8 billion to his alma mater, Johns Hopkins University, to create a fund that would help low-income and moderate-income students attend without having to worry about the cost, his charitable organization, Bloomberg Philanthropies, announced on Sunday.
The money would expand the university’s endowment by more than 40 percent, to about $6.1 billion. The fund would be dedicated to undergraduate financial aid and recruitment, and would be enough, a university official said, to cover the full difference between the cost of attending Johns Hopkins and the amount that students and their families can afford to pay.
“America is at its best when we reward people based on the quality of their work, not the size of their pocketbook,” Bloomberg wrote in an opinion essay published online in The New York Times on Sunday. “Denying students entry to a college based on their ability to pay undermines equal opportunity. It perpetuates intergenerational poverty. And it strikes at the heart of the American dream: the idea that every person, from every community, has the chance to rise based on merit.”
According to a statement released by Bloomberg Philanthropies and posted on its web site, the donation represents “the largest ever contribution to an academic institution in American history. The historic gift will be devoted exclusively to undergraduate financial aid at one of the world’s leading education, research and patient care institutions, allowing Johns Hopkins University to permanently commit to need-blind admissions and ensure unparalleled educational opportunities for the next generation of global leaders.
“I want to be sure the school that gave me a chance will be able to permanently open that same door of opportunity for generations of talented students, regardless of their ability to pay. I am donating an additional $1.8 billion to Hopkins that will be used solely for financial aid to low and middle income students. That will make admissions at Hopkins forever need blind. It will allow the school to offer more generous scholarships. It will ease the burden of student debt for many graduates. And it will help open up the American dream to more young people.”
At dozens of selective colleges, the statement continued, “there are more students from incomes in the top one percent than there are from the bottom 60 percent, even though many middle and lower-income students have the qualifications to get in, according to a New York Times analysis. Schools without the funds to support need-blind admissions policies deny seats to middle and low-income, high achieving students, impeding social mobility and creating barriers in cultivating talent from every background. Studies show that high achieving students who attend the most selective colleges — no matter what their family’s background — have similar graduation rates and career earnings.
Making matters worse, middle and low-income students who are qualified to get loans are burdened by debt upon graduation, exacerbating income inequality. There is a total of $1.5 trillion in outstanding student loans in the U.S., making it the second-largest consumer debt segment in the country after mortgages, according to the Federal Reserve.
“By building an extraordinary financial aid program to fuel student access and mobility, Johns Hopkins will rank among the top ten universities in per student financial aid support, with a focus on first generation/low-income (FLI) students and taking up the often overlooked challenge of access for middle-income students as well.”
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