A saviour for Baltimore

A saviour for Baltimore


norman lebrecht

November 19, 2018

Michael Bloomberg has just given $1.8 billion to abolish student loans and make tuition affordable at Johns Hopkins University, which includes the Peabody Institute.

Bloomberg is a Baltimore grad.

It’s not clear how his gift will affect music tuition, but it will make Peabody more diverse and attractive to bright students and that can only be beneficial for a city that seemed to be heading for culture crash.

Statement follows.



Beginning in the fall of 2019, Johns Hopkins will be a loan-free institution. We will replace all undergraduate student loans with scholarships, and we will reduce overall family contributions to financial aid.

In addition, for the spring 2019 semester, we will offer immediate loan relief to every enrolled undergraduate student whose financial aid package includes a federal need-based loan.

This will make admissions at Hopkins forever need-blind; finances will never again factor into decisions. The school will be able to offer more generous levels of financial aid, replacing loans for many students with scholarship grants. It will ease the burden of debt for many graduates. And it will make the campus more socioeconomically diverse.


  • violafan says:


  • My wife and I were guest artists at Peabody last spring. I could be wrong because my observations were by circumstance cursory, but I sensed a slight atmosphere of depression and dilapidation around the school that fell in line with the troubled city around it. (Poverty and crime are rampant. Astoundingly, the DEA estimates that about 10% of the city is addicted to heroin.) Peabody is one of America’s most important music schools and is the oldest conservatory in continuous operation in America. It has been a light to the world. I hope it will have the financial support to continue that tradition. Scholarship money will help, but I’m guessing that the school needs more cash to keep things running like they should.

  • Neil Thompson Shade says:

    The immense generosity of Mr. Bloomberg is to be admired for his contribution to Johns Hopkins University.

    Whether the contribution filters to Peabody Institute and other Hopkins divisions is not clear from the press release. The benefits may only apply to the Homewood campus, Mr. Bloomberg’s alma mater.

    Each Hopkins division is essentially self-sustaining in terms of finances.

    Having been an instructor at Peabody for 16 years I can confirm some of Mr. Osborne’s observations. My stay was very enjoyable, but the teaching position was more an escape twice weekly from the aggravations of running an acoustics consultancy!

  • wsgross says:

    Ah, if he’d only come to the aid of the BSO. Dallas was in the same situation in the early 1980s. Lots of folks with the ability stepped forward to help get the symphony on good footing.

    • David Rohde says:

      No, I think this is a better use of the money by Bloomberg. With all due respect to presenters of classical music around the US who are working hard on financial stability for their institutions, I’m always a little concerned when orchestras, opera companies and the like become all top-heavy in their concern over large donations with no long-term results to show for it at the box office, either demographically or in total numbers.

      I recently finished a project at a large, diverse public high school in this region (albeit in Washington rather than Baltimore) where the major rehearsal facility that doubles as a chorus room and dance studio prominently displays a poster for Eastman encouraging applications. Many other such posters for various conservatories and individual programs are seen in the hallways outside both the large auditorium and the “black box” theater in the school. Naturally this raises the question of who is qualified among the student body, for which musical and theatrical disciplines, and how they’re going to pay for it all. If merely opening up the possibilities is all that Bloomberg’s initiative accomplishes, then something has been achieved in terms of serious cultural involvement and interest among new generations of Americans.

      I’m partly influenced here by the fact that, completely apart from music and the arts, Johns Hopkins University is a major institution in the mid-Atlantic states and I’ve known people who have successfully sought medical treatment there for issues that couldn’t be properly addressed anywhere else. I’m also realistic enough about philanthropy of any kind to be careful about projecting any true long-term effect. But back to your point about the BSO: If the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra cannot figure out a way to make Bloomberg’s enormous financial initiative at JHU pay dividends in some important way for the future of the orchestra, then something is wrong.

  • Petros Linardos says:

    “As a direct result of this remarkable and indeed historic gift, Peabody will receive a $50,000,000 contribution to its endowment. ”

    • If I read the article correctly, the $50 million is for the endowment and its profits will be earmarked for scholarships. At 5% that would come to $2.5 million per year. That would be $5000 per year for 500 students which I suspect is well below tuition costs. Or they could focus the money on a smaller number of poor students. In any case, it would appear that tuition will not be eliminated. And the challenges with meeting operating costs will continue. It is a large contrast with continental Europe where university education is generally free or close to it. And where there is no such thing as student debt.

      • Scotty says:

        This is indeed confusing. According to other articles, Johns Hopkins will from here on be tuition-free. Students who have paid their 2019 tuition will have it refunded. I had thought that would include Peabody students. But according to the Peabody release, maybe not.

    • Robert Fitzpatrick says:

      The purpose of Mr. Bloomberg’s generous gift appears to be the elimination of the need to take student loans for undergrads at JHU: a noble goal indeed.

      However, after reading Mr. Bronstein’s letter to the Peabody community, I don’t see any mention of student loans. Merit-based + need-based assistance is usually topped of with the need to take loans to make ends meet (especially for room and board). An increase of $50M to the Peabody endowment should be restricted, IMHO, to the stated intent of the overall $1.8B Bloomberg gift: the elimination of student loans for undergrads. Perhaps additional clarification from Peabody would help Luddites like me understand. At a prudent spending rate of 4%, a $50M endowment increase will yield an additional $2M annually.

      Endowment gifts like this are usually spread out over at least 5 years for maximum tax benefit to the donor. I doubt that Bloomberg will just write a check for $1.8B. That said, his generosity and vision for his alma mater are remarkable. May others follow his lead.

      • norman lebrecht says:

        I ran into him, Bob, at a private Carnegie Hall event in the spring of 2016. People were begging him, even at that late stage, to run against Trump. He would have been such an inspiring President.

        • Robert Fitzpatrick says:

          Agreed. I would only change the verb in your last sentence to “He would be…”

        • Scotty says:

          That would have been as a third-party candidate. It’s likely that he would have siphoned off more votes from Clinton than Trump. But who knows, maybe he would have helped Clinton in Michigan, Wisconsin, and Pennsylvania and Trump would now be forgotten. Either way, Bloomberg wouldn’t have been President.

        • Inspiring for the older generations, but perhaps less so for the young who are clearly leaning toward social democratic stances similar to all the mainstream parties in the rest of the developed world. As we have seen of late, billionaire Presidents don’t seem to be the solution regardless of their political stripes. For the young, it is the very system that amasses so much wealth at the top that, and that constantly drains the middle and working classes, that is one of the principle causes of the problems we face. As the EU shows, a more moderated form of capitalism can provide great wealth and a better quality of life, especially in vital areas like education and the arts. In another generation our system of cultural plutocracy in the arts will be history.

        • Saxon Broken says:

          He may have made (or will make) a great President. But, he will find it difficult to inspire the electorate. He really isn’t a “street-fighter”, he is more of a “technocrat”. But that doesn’t seem to be what the electorate wants at the moment: soundbites beat facts.

  • NYMike says:

    Unlike the current NY “billionaire” occupying the WH, Bloomberg is the real deal. More power to him!

  • Strings student says:

    Peabody has been attempting to raise the numbers by opening new programs such as dance undergraduate degrees instead of improving the programs it already has. In a school which used to have teachers such as Oscar Shumsky, Aldo Parisot, Karen Tuttle, and more recently, Anthony McGill, Pamela Frank, Victor Danchenko, Soovin Kim, it has a very difficult time as of late attracting and retaining quality faculty, especially for strings. You would think with the short train trip from Philadelphia or New York, it would not be so difficult, or to find some quality young blood in there! Hopefully this money situation will change things up!