Michael Bloomberg donates $1.8 billion to boost financial aid for low-income students

Michael Bloomberg's presidential ambitions

Michael Bloomberg, the former mayor of New York and one of the world's richest people, is donating $1.8 billion to his alma mater, Johns Hopkins University, in an effort to boost financial aid for low- and middle-income students.

The university said the contribution — the largest ever to any education institution in the U.S. — will allow Johns Hopkins to eliminate student loans in financial aid packages starting next fall. The university will instead offer scholarships that don't have to be repaid.

In an op-ed published Sunday in The New York Times, Bloomberg said he was lucky to have attended the university, and could afford it thanks to a National Defense student loan and his job on campus.

"My Hopkins diploma opened up doors that otherwise would have been closed, and allowed me to live the American dream," he wrote. "I want to be sure that the school that gave me a chance will be able to permanently open that same door of opportunity for others."

University President Ronald Daniels said Bloomberg's contribution will also let the institution permanently commit to "need-blind admissions," or the principle of admitting the highest-achieving students, regardless of their ability to pay for their education.

"Hopkins has received a gift that is unprecedented and transformative," he said in a statement, noting the prestigious school was founded in 1876 by a $7 million gift from Baltimore merchant Johns Hopkins that was, similarly, the largest gift of its kind at the time.

By way of comparison, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation launched the Gates Millennium Scholars program in 1999 with a $1 billion commitment over 20 years. The Chronicle of Higher Education listed it as the largest private donation to a higher-education institution in the U.S. earlier this month.

Bloomberg said he expects the money will allow Hopkins to offer more generous scholarships and ease the debt burden for graduates.

"Denying students entry to a college based on their ability to pay undermines equal opportunity," he wrote in The Times. "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."

The 76-year-old is the founder of the global finances services and media company, Bloomberg L.P. He graduated from Hopkins in 1964, served as New York mayor from 2002 to 2013 and has for years weighed running for president. Earlier this year, he said he was mulling a 2020 presidential run.