No Good Gift Goes Unpunished

Not 24 hours after the announcement of the world’s largest gift to higher education, there were those eager to criticize it. “Wait, Is Bloomberg’s $1.8-Billion Donation to Johns Hopkins a Good Thing?” screamed the headline in the November 20th issue of The Chronicle of Higher Education. 

Michael R. Bloomberg’s gift will enable the University to significantly increase the number of qualified low- and middle-income students who can attend. In his own words, the goal is to “eliminate money problems from the admissions equation for qualified students.” The university will replace loans with scholarships for students, starting in the spring of 2019. The university will also use the money to diversify its undergraduate enrollment, making one in five students eligible for Pell Grants up from the current one in 15 students. That’s a good thing.

Critics contend he could have made a bigger difference by giving to programs with a broader reach. He already has done that with his American Talent Initiative (ATI). Through ATI, Bloomberg Philanthropies brought college presidents and higher education thought leaders together to address challenges facing high-achieving, lower-income students. ATI is a collaboration between the Aspen Institute’s College Excellence Program, Ithaka S+R, and a growing number of colleges and universities “dedicated to substantially expanding opportunity and access for low- and moderate-income students.” ATI members all graduate at least 70 percent of their students within six years. That’s also a good thing.

In addition, Bloomberg Philanthropies supports the CollegePoint initiative, “which provides virtual, high quality college and financial aid advising to thousands of high-achieving, low- and moderate-income students across the United States.” That’s yet another good thing.