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Last November, Michael Bloomberg made what may well be the largest private donation to higher education in modern times: $1.8 billion to enable his alma mater, Johns Hopkins University, to provide scholarships for eligible students unable to afford the school's tuition.Bloomberg's gift adds one more university to the handful (including Princeton University, my employer) where those without the means to pay will have their tuition and living expenses fully covered.Bloomberg has an admirable record of doing good. According to Forbes, which this year began ranking the world's richest people for their philanthropy, Bloomberg has given away more than $5.5 billion. Bloomberg has taken the Giving Pledge, committing himself to giving at least half of his fortune to charity.And yet I cannot applaud Bloomberg's donation to a university that already had an endowment of $3.8 billion and charges undergraduate students $53,740 per year to attend. Gratitude could have led Bloomberg to have given, say, $1 million to Johns Hopkins University on the basis of those feelings.George Soros, another impressive philanthropist, founded the Central European University in order to provide new educational opportunities for students from all over the world, but especially from the former communist countries of Central and Eastern Europe.
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