Mike Bloomberg donates  billion to Johns Hopkins University for free medical education
Mike Bloomberg donates  billion to Johns Hopkins University for free medical education

A donation of $1 billion to Johns Hopkins University by billionaire Mike Bloomberg will make medical school free for most students and increase financial aid for those enrolled in nursing, public health and other graduate programs.

In a Monday letter in Bloomberg Philanthropies In its annual report, Bloomberg addressed the dual challenge of the deteriorating health and education systems. The donation is a strong signal of the value of higher education at a time when science is increasingly under political attack.

“As the United States seeks to recover from a troubling decline in life expectancy, our country is suffering from a severe shortage of doctors, nurses and health care workers — and yet the high cost of medical, nursing and graduate programs too often keeps students from enrolling,” wrote Bloomberg, a 1964 graduate of Johns Hopkins and founder of the business and financial data and news company Bloomberg. “By lowering the financial barriers to these important fields, we can give more students the opportunity to pursue careers that excite them — and enable them to help more families and communities that need them most.”

Starting this fall, Johns Hopkins University will offer free tuition to medical students whose families earn less than $300,000 a year, which normally amounts to about $65,000 a year for four years.

Living expenses and fees are also covered for students from families with an annual income of up to $175,000.

“It is a full scholarship,” said Hopkins President Ronald J. Daniels. “We see this as a very important step in ensuring that the best and brightest minds in the country receive a medical education.”

Tuition increases at public and private medical institutions have outpaced inflation, says Holly J. Humphrey, president of the Josiah Macy Jr. Foundation, a nonprofit organization that works to improve education for health professionals. There has been a shift in the number of students, with more students coming from high-income families and fewer coming from lower-income families.

According to the Association of American Medical Colleges, the average medical school debt of the class of 2023 was $200,000.

Too many students don’t even consider medical school because of the high costs, says Sanjay Desai, chief academic director of the American Medical Association.

Health outcomes would improve if doctors reflected the diversity of the patients they treat, he said. Studies also suggest that students from lower-income families are more likely to return to underserved communities as doctors.

There are other troubling gaps. The country needs more general practitioners, Desai said, but student loans could push people to turn to more lucrative specialties.

“I hope it inspires others to take action,” said Desai, who is also a faculty member at Johns Hopkins University.

This donation brings the total amount of Bloomberg Philanthropies’ donations to Johns Hopkins University to an incredible $4.55 billion. This infusion of cash has allowed the university to increase its ambitions and influence in many areas. A key thread has been affordability: in 2018, Bloomberg, a former mayor of New York and presidential candidate, announced a historic $1.8 billion donation to increase financial aid for students and promised that admissions decisions would henceforth be made regardless of need. This donation contributed to changes in the student body, which now includes more low-income students and is more ethnically diverse.

Stefano Montalvo, who will begin medical school at Johns Hopkins University in the fall, benefited from this 2018 donation. He didn’t think he could afford college, but when he left track practice at his New Jersey public high school to see if he had been accepted to Hopkins University, he saw the offer of financial aid and was shocked: It covered almost the entire cost of tuition.

“I called my mother,” he said, “and we cried on the phone.”

The gift announced on Monday is not the first aimed at eliminating tuition fees for medical students. Earlier this year Billion dollar donation to the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York by Ruth Gottesman, chair of the board of trustees, enabled the school to announce to cheering students that fourth-year students would be refunded their spring tuition and that tuition would be tuition-free going forward. New York University’s Grossman School of Medicine announced in 2018 that it would offer full-tuition scholarships to all students regardless of financial status, and a $200 million donation last summer ensured that tuition at NYU’s second medical school, NYU Grossman Long Island School of Medicine, will be tuition-free in perpetuity.

At Hopkins, Existing aid funding has already reduced student debt Last academic year, graduates left the country with an average debt of $105,000, about half the national average. school officials said.

Monday’s announcement will change this dramatically.

Part of the model’s value lies in its simplicity, Daniels said: Applicants or students who may one day want to apply can clearly see what their total costs would be based on their family’s income, rather than having to wait for admission and a financial aid package from the college.

The donation also will increase financial aid for graduates of the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and School of Nursing. And it will increase financial aid for graduates of the schools of liberal arts and sciences, advanced international studies, education, engineering, business, the Peabody Institute and the upcoming School of Government and Policy, which was announced last fall and will be housed in the Bloomberg Center at Johns Hopkins University in Washington, near the Capitol.

Many Johns Hopkins students have benefited from the financial aid. Albert Holler, who grew up outside Chicago, had wanted to be a doctor since high school when a classmate died of leukemia. But with his mother working as a hairdresser, waitress, and cleaner, and his father working two jobs to support their family of five, he expected to take on enormous debt. After applying to medical schools, he woke up one weekend morning in his dorm room and, still groggy, opened an email from Hopkins. A dean offered him a $90,000 grant a year, a deal that included living expenses for four years. Holler texted his father, wondering if the offer could be serious.

This gift from a donor, he said, “changed the course of my life greatly.”

Allowing more students to have their medical education reimbursed would not only help Hopkins attract the best students regardless of their financial means, but would also be a great thing for patient care, he said.

As an internal medicine resident in Baltimore who wants to become an oncologist, he often uses the Spanish he learned from his mother and honed through his volunteer work at health clinics. Now, with people from Central America recently flocking to Baltimore, he relies on it to understand his patients’ needs. “It also seems to allow them to take a deep breath,” he said, “and then have a little more confidence.”

By Everly