Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Md., has received a $1.8 billion gift from Michael Bloomberg, the media mogul, philanthropist and potential president candidate in 2020. It is the largest known donation ever made to an educational institution in the United States.
The money will be devoted exclusively to financial aid, allowing it to permanently offer need-blind admissions and eliminate the need for student loans in financial aid packages, according to an announcement from Bloomberg and the university.
A 1964 graduate of Johns Hopkins, Bloomberg has given $6.4 billion over his lifetime to philanthropic causes prior to this commitment. Bloomberg Philanthropies includes his foundation, corporate, and personal philanthropy, as well as Bloomberg Associates, a pro bono consultancy that works with mayors in cities around the world. The Bloomberg Family Foundation, based in New York City, reported assets of $7.85 billion on its Internal Revenue Service Form 990 in 2016, the last year available.
The gift is being made in one lump sum. According to Rachel Nagler, spokesperson for Bloomberg Philanthropies, the gift will be delivered “as soon as possible.” Logistics are still being worked out but the university will receive the money “in weeks or months, certainly not years,” said Nagler.
The Bloomberg Philanthropies targets education, the arts, environment and government innovation.
In an opinion article in The New York Times, Bloomberg wrote that his father was a bookkeeper who never made more than $6,000 annually. “But I was able to afford Johns Hopkins University through a National Defense student loan, and by holding down a job on campus. My Hopkins diploma opened up doors that otherwise would have been closed, and allowed me to live the American dream,” he wrote.
Effective with the fall 2019 semester, the university will implement five programs based on this gift:
- This endowment will allow the university to permanently commit to need-blind admissions, admitting the highest-achieving students from all backgrounds, regardless of their ability to pay;
- The university will offer no-loan financial aid packages. Currently, 44 percent of Johns Hopkins students graduate with some form of loan debt, averaging more than $24,000. Student loans will now be eliminated from financial aid packages and replaced with scholarships that do not need to be repaid;
- The financial burden placed on working families will be eased by reducing what families who qualify for financial aid have to pay towards the student’s education. This is particularly meaningful in middle- and low-income families trying to balance tuition for multiple children;
- Johns Hopkins will dramatically increase recruitment and programs for first generation and lower-income students, including support for research experiences, internships, and study abroad; and,
- The university will build a more socioeconomically diverse student body, with low-income students who qualify for federal Pell Grants comprising at least one-fifth of the student body by 2023.
In what might be viewed as an early test of a presidential campaign platform, Bloomberg wrote that funding education for middle and lower income students can “open doors of opportunity to more students by taking three basic steps.” Those steps include improve college advising so that more students from more diverse backgrounds apply to select colleges; persuading more colleges to increase their financial aid and accept more low- and middle-income students; and, getting graduates to direct their alumni giving to financial aid.
“But these steps alone are not sufficient. Federal grants have not kept pace with rising costs, and states have slashed student aid. Private donations cannot and should not make up for the lack of government support,” Bloomberg wrote.
Funding education is nothing new for Bloomberg. His various foundations have provides schools throughout the nation with funding for innovative programs.
“Our university was founded in 1876 by a visionary $7 million gift from the Baltimore merchant Johns Hopkins. When it was announced, it was the largest gift of its kind. It created America’s first research university and changed the face of American higher education. With today’s announcement of Mike Bloomberg’s $1.8 billion investment in financial aid, history has repeated itself,” said Johns Hopkins University President Ronald J. Daniels. “Hopkins has received a gift that is unprecedented and transformative. This gift powerfully affirms Mike’s belief in the promise of this country and the power of accessible higher education. We are truly blessed.”