Bloomberg billion makes Johns Hopkins medical school free to most

Latest gift brings tycoon’s total gifts to alma mater to about $4.6 billion

July 8, 2024
Johns Hopkins Hospital
Source: iStock/DelmasLehman

Financial services tycoon Michael Bloomberg has given Johns Hopkins University another $1 billion (£800 million), with the intent of making his alma mater’s medical school free to most of its students.

With the gift, Hopkins will offer free medical school tuition to all students with annual family incomes below $300,000. That income threshold covers 95 per cent of all Americans, and nearly two-thirds of the current and entering medical students at Hopkins.

The Bloomberg gift also will be used to increase financial aid for “future nurses and public health pioneers” studying at Hopkins, the university said, without immediately offering details.

For students pursuing a medical degree, the Bloomberg gift also will cover living expenses, on top of tuition and fees, in cases of family incomes up to $175,000 – the vast majority of Americans, Hopkins said.

The new aid levels will take effect this coming academic year, Hopkins said.

With the gift, Mr Bloomberg said in announcing the initiative, “we can free more students to pursue careers they’re passionate about – and enable them to serve more of the families and communities who need them the most”.

The announcement, however, made no mention of Hopkins medical school graduates, in return for the financial assistance, being required to spend any part of their careers in underserved regions or specialties.

And more broadly, there also is little evidence from previous such initiatives – at places such as the Albert Einstein College of Medicine, New York University, and beyond – that free-tuition programmes at US medical schools produce significant benefits for disadvantaged communities in terms of student enrolment or the availability of medical services.

The Bloomberg gift to Hopkins overall appears to be “great news” for the affected students, said François Furstenberg, a Hopkins professor of history who has served in academic governance leadership positions at the university.

But, Professor Furstenberg said, physicians often can command high salaries in particular specialisations, and the greater need may involve students pursuing doctorates in lower-paying fields with important societal value.

The new gift brings to $4.55 billion Mr Bloomberg’s total donations to Hopkins, which currently has an annual operating budget of about $9 billion.

The $1 billion also roughly matches the amount that Hopkins recently realised that it needed to reconcile in its medical school accounts after an internal audit found problems with its financial tracking.

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