By his own accounting, the young student Michael Bloomberg needed precisely the kind of financial help getting through Johns Hopkins University that he’s now extending to future Hopkins kids – thousands of them, who are smart, who are driven, but aren’t loaded with money.
Bloomberg’s father was a bookkeeper who never made more than $6,000 a year. Bloomberg mentions this whenever he talks about his upbringing. When he graduated Hopkins, and became a proud alum, Bloomberg’s first donation to the school was $5. It was all he could afford.
He’s done a little better since then.
In fact, he’s made so much money that he gives it away with both hands. Over the years, he’s donated roughly $1.5 billion to Hopkins. If that reads like a misprint, then imagine the latest response around the Homewood campus, when it was announced over the weekend that Bloomberg will now add another $1.8 billion to the Hopkins scholarship program.
It’s the largest donation in history to a college or university.
What this means is, instead of offering loans to students who can’t afford Hopkins tuition, the school will extend scholarships. In other words, these students will no longer have back-breaking debts to burden them after they graduate.
In a time of soaring college costs, and untold numbers of smart high school kids whose education is limited by their family bank accounts, Bloomberg’s gift is remarkably generous – and needed.
At Hopkins, for example, tuition is $53,470 a year.
You don’t have to be a Hopkins grad to multiply that figure by four and imagine paying back loans for years to come.
As Bloomberg himself has noted, a recent analysis of the most elite (and, often, most expensive) universities by the New York Times showed there were more students enrolled from the top 1 percent of the nation’s richest families than there are from the bottom 60 percent.
At Hopkins, they’ll no longer have to divide prospects by their ability to pay – only their ability to learn.
A former Baltimore Sun columnist and WJZ-TV commentator, Michael Olesker is the author of six books. His most recent book, “Front Stoops in the Fifties: Baltimore Legends Come of Age,” published by the Johns Hopkins University Press, is now in paperback.