Former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg said he does not believe qualified high school students should be barred from entrance to college because of financial issues, announcing Sunday that he was giving a record $1.8 billion donation to Johns Hopkins University, ensuring that admissions to his alma mater would forever be need-blind.
“I was lucky,” Bloomberg wrote in a New York Times op-ed. “My father was a bookkeeper who never made more than $6,000 a year. 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.”
Beginning in the fall of 2019, Johns Hopkins will become a loan-free institution, President Ronald Daniels said. The school, founded in 1876 with a $7 million endowment from its namesake Baltimore philanthropist, plans to replace all undergraduate student loans with scholarships and reduce overall family contributions to financial aid. In addition, Hopkins will offer immediate loan relief to currently enrolled undergraduate students receiving a federal need-based loan.
In a letter to the university’s alumni, Daniels said the school’s goal is to “attract and support” a student body by 2023 in which at least 20 percent of its students are eligible for federal Pell grants.
Hopkins tied at No. 10 in the latest U.S. News & World Report rankings of national universities. Its annual tuition, fees, and room and board will total nearly $70,000 in 2019.
“America is at its best when we reward people based on the quality of their work, not the size of their pocketbook,” Bloomberg said. “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.”
Bloomberg, 76, is a graduate of the Class of 1964 and a former chair of the Hopkins board of trustees. With his latest gift, Bloomberg’s overall contributions to Hopkins now surpass $3.35 billion. It is believed to be the largest philanthropic investment ever made to an institution of higher learning in the U.S.
At more than three-dozen elite U.S. colleges, more students come from families in the top one percent of the income scale than the the bottom 60 percent, even though many lower and middle-income students have the academic credentials for admittance, according to a 2017 analysis by The New York Times.
With more than $1.5 trillion in outstanding student loans in the country, college loans surpass total motor vehicle loans, making it the second-largest consumer debt segment in the country after mortgages, according to the Federal Reserve’s most recent annual report.
In addition to Bloomberg’s announcement, Hopkins said it plans to address the issue of college “under-matching,” in which top high school students from middle and lower-income families are not matched with selective college options with new outreach and recruitment programs. Bloomberg Philanthropies will also address the issue through two programs aimed at helping high-achieving, lower-income students gain access top universities.
Previously, Bloomberg donated $1.5 billion to university’s school of public health, which bears his name. He has hinted at a possible presidential run for president in 2020, switching his party registration from Republican to Democrat earlier this year.
According to the Forbes’ real-time billionaire rankings, Bloomberg is the 14th-richest person in the world, with a fortune estimated at $46.3 billion. After being laid off from an investment-banking job at Salomon Brothers in 1981, he founded the global business information and media company Bloomberg L.P., which generates an annual $9 billion in sales.