This Billionaire Donated $1.8 Billion for Low Income Students

This is the largest gift ever given to a US Academic Institution.

Dec 7, 2018

Imagine a university where every student who has the academics to attend is accepted and given the funding to attend no matter what his or her family income is. Now open your eyes because this is becoming a reality, at least at one prestigious university.

Former NYC mayor and billionaire businessman Michael Bloomberg gave a substantial $1.8 billion donation to his alma mater Johns Hopkins University to provide financial aid to poor students.

This is the largest gift ever given to Johns Hopkins, a prestigious academic institution located in Baltimore, or to any US college or university. The donation will be used exclusively for financial aid. This will allow the university to permanently offer need-blind admissions and eliminate the need for student loans according to a Johns Hopkins press release.

Bloomberg believes that no qualified high school student should ever be barred entrance to a college or university because of the size of his or her family's bank account but that it happens all the time.

In a New York Times Op-ed, Bloomberg wrote: "America is at its best when we reward people based on the quality of their work, not the size of their pocketbook. 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."

“Mike Bloomberg’s historic contribution will open the doors wider to college for talented students from every background,” said John B. King Jr., former United States Secretary of Education in the University press release. “It also sends a message that all of us can and must do more to ensure that higher education fulfills its responsibility to be an engine of economic mobility for students from every background.”

Prior to this gift, Johns Hopkins had one of the lowest endowment funds for financial aid compared to other similarly ranked institutions. That limited how much they could give and how many low -income student they could accept. Now, the university will now be able to make its admissions based solely on merit and not also on the ability to pay.

Today, there is $1.5 trillion in outstanding student loans in the US according to the Federal Reserve, making it the second largest consumer debt segment after home mortgages. Students graduate mired in student loan debt but that will be a thing of the past at Johns Hopkins.

Beginning in 2019, the school's first action will be to replace all undergraduate student loans with scholarships that do not have to be repaid and family contributions as part of a financial aid package will be reduced. This will greatly help lower- and middle-income families.

The university will strive to build a more socioeconomically diverse student body including at least 20 percent of low-income students who qualify for federal Pell grants by 2013.

The university was founded in 1876 by a $7 million gift from Baltimore merchant Johns Hopkins and now, "history has repeated itself," said Ronald J. Daniels, Johns Hopkins University President in the press release. “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.”

This is not the first gift that Bloomberg has given to Johns Hopkins. He has donated $1.55 the university and has given $6.4 billion over his lifetime to philanthropic causes prior to this gift. Bloomberg Philanthropies is the 12th largest foundation in the US.

Bloomberg wrote in his NYT Op-ed that he hopes that his gift will spur other graduates to direct their giving to financial aid no matter what the amount. He also stressed that the federal and state governments have to do more to improve access to college and to reduce the debt that college places on students and their families.

He said, "There may be no better investment that we can make in the future of the American dream — and the promise of equal opportunity for all."

We couldn’t have said it any better way.

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BONNIE RIVA RAS, EDITOR & WRITER
Bonnie Riva Ras has dedicated her life to promoting social justice. She loves to write about empowering women, helping children, educational innovations, and advocating for the environment & sustainability.

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