Academia, as a microcosm of the larger world, is at its strongest and most dynamic when it fully embraces the talents and perspectives of the broadest possible diversity of backgrounds.
Our students—some of the brightest minds of their generation—are engaged in tackling the most complex challenges we face, whether bringing to light new information about social inequality, viewing today’s world leaders through the lens offered by ancient rulers, or prolonging lives with novel findings in the lab. Those advances occur through the kind of collaboration that pushes us to think past the answers we’re used to, the ones we expect, and land in unfamiliar and sometimes uncomfortable territory. That is where new insights come from; new angles on old problems. And nothing can take us there quite like being led away from the routine by a perspective we never knew existed.
When Johns Hopkins founded our university in 1876, he did so with a vision of just this kind of intellectual vibrancy, wanting it to welcome students based on “their character and intellectual promise” rather than their financial circumstances.
Hopkins has done its best to honor this vision through the years with scholarships and student loans. When Ronald J. Daniels was named university president in 2009, he committed that Hopkins admissions would, in the not so distant future, become permanently need blind.
And when Michael Bloomberg, who graduated with a bachelor’s degree in civil engineering in 1964, announced his record-breaking $1.8 billion gift in support of undergraduate financial aid last fall, that promise became an enduring reality.
College affordability is a significant and persistent obstacle for middle- and low-income students, limiting access and perpetuating income inequality. This gift has allowed Hopkins admissions to become immediately and permanently need blind and loan-free. Qualified potential students, whose families previously could not have shouldered the debt a Hopkins education would have required, can now apply with great financial confidence. Students can enjoy the peace of mind to pursue their true passions and explore the many exciting areas of study available in humanities, social sciences, and natural sciences in the Krieger School.
Meanwhile, the gift enriches our campus and intellectual community beyond measure by deeply broadening our ranks to include more of those whose window to the world comes from a place not marked by material wealth. We are now able to build a more socioeconomically diverse student body, with meritorious students from low-income families who qualify for federal Pell Grants growing from the current 15 percent to at least 20 percent of the student body by 2023. We can dramatically increase recruitment and programs for first generation students and students from low-income families, including support for research experiences, internships, and study abroad.
The entire student body and university community will benefit enormously from our expanded ability to recruit, educate, and graduate exceptional students who hail from diverse perspectives and backgrounds. But as generous as this gift is, the need for student support remains vital. As Michael Bloomberg himself wrote in The New York Times, “we need more graduates to direct their alumni giving to financial aid. I’m increasing my personal commitment—the largest donation to a collegiate institution, I’m told. But it’s my hope that others will, too, whether the check is for $5, $50, $50,000, or more. … There may be no better investment that we can make in the future of the American dream—and the promise of equal opportunity for all.”
James B. Knapp Dean