Former New York mayor Michael R. Bloomberg announced Sunday he is giving a record $1.8 billion to Johns Hopkins University to support student financial aid at his alma mater and make its admissions process “forever need-blind.”
The gift, believed to be the largest private donation in modern times to higher education, is a landmark in a growing national movement to make elite universities more accessible to students from low- to middle-income families.
It will enable the private research university in Baltimore to eliminate loans from financial aid packages for incoming students starting next fall, expand grants for those in financial need and provide relief to many current undergraduates who had previously taken out federal loans to pay their bills.
In years past, Hopkins President Ronald J. Daniels said, the university struggled to achieve its goal of welcoming all talented students regardless of their means or backgrounds.
“Our dedicated financial aid endowment was simply too small,” Daniels said. “Now, as a consequence of Mike Bloomberg’s extraordinary gift, we will be fully and permanently need-blind in our admissions and be able to substantially enrich the level of direct assistance we provide to our undergraduate students and their families.”
Bloomberg, who graduated from Hopkins in 1964, wrote in an op-ed for the New York Times that his gift is intended to support the idea that opportunities should be based on merit and not wealth. “This will make admissions at Hopkins forever need-blind; finances will never again factor into decisions,” he wrote.
With the donation, the 76-year-old businessman and politician underscored his philanthropic commitment at a moment when he is mulling a run for the presidency in 2020 as a Democrat. (He also has been a Republican and an independent in his political career.) Bloomberg had given $6.4 billion to education and other causes before Sunday’s announcement.
Now, his total lifetime giving to Hopkins alone will exceed $3.3 billion.