When Michael Bloomberg graduated from Johns Hopkins, he could only afford to donate $5 back to the institution. Now the eighth richest person in the US, Bloomberg just donated $1.8 billion to Johns Hopkins, which will help talented low-income students be able to afford a quality education, the New York Times reports.
“America is at its best when we reward people based on the quality of their work, not the size of their pocketbook,” wrote Bloomberg in an op-ed for the Times. “Denying students entry to a college based on their ability to pay undermines equal opportunity. It perpetuates intergenerational poverty.”
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Bloomberg’s father was a bookkeeper that never made over $6,000 per year. Bloomberg needed a National Defense loan and a job on campus in order to afford to go to John Hopkins, a school he credits for changing his life.
Now he’s changing the lives of other low- and mid-income students. His million-dollar donation will allow Hopkins to remain need-blind, which will allow the school to accept applicants based on ability and potential rather than financial status. In the statement, Bloomberg said that his donation is the largest donation to ever be given to an academic institution in the US. Ronald J. Daniels, the president of Johns Hopkins University, said that over the years Bloomberg has donated a combined $3.35 billion to John Hopkins.
“This constitutes the largest philanthropic investment ever made to any institution of higher education in the United States,” Daniels said.
A lack of resources can prevent low-income students from obtaining educational, economic, and occupational opportunities. A New York Times study showed that at elite schools, more students came from families in the top 1% of wealth than students from families in the bottom 60%, despite many low-income students having the same educational qualifications as their peers.
“No qualified high school student should ever be barred entrance to a college based on his or her family’s bank account. Yet it happens all the time,” wrote Bloomberg.
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Regardless of the economic status, when students have access to the same resources, they achieve similar levels of success. According to a New York Times study, a high-income student that attends an Ivy League college on average ends up in the 80th percentile of income distribution. A lower-income student that attends the same colleges ends on average ends up in the 75th percentile.
Critics point out that John Hopkins, like other elite institutions, already has an immense endowment and could easily offset tuition for students currently. These critics argue that Bloomberg’s donation would have a bigger impact at state schools.
Bloomberg’s foundation, Bloomberg Philanthropies, has advised about 50,000 low- and middle-income students about college and financial aid through a program called CollegePoint. His foundation also created the American Talent Initiative, which uses philanthropy and research to encourage schools to accept more qualified candidates from different economic backgrounds.
“There may be no better investment that we can make in the future of the American dream,” said Bloomberg. “And the promise of equal opportunity for all.”