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Michael Bloomberg gives $100 million to help historically Black med school grads pay off loans

The billionaire will distribute his gift among the four historically Black medical schools in the United States (yes, there are only four).

Michael Bloomberg gives $100 million to help historically Black med school grads pay off loans
Image Source: Getty Images/ Former Democratic Presidential Candidate Mike Bloomberg Addresses His Staff And The Media, Upon Suspending His Presidential Bid. (Photo by Spencer Platt)

Former Mayor of New York City Michael Bloomberg announced on Thursday that he plans to donate $100 million to the four historically Black medical schools in the United States as a way for graduates to ease their student loan debt. The donation, which will be made through the billionaire's charity Bloomberg Philanthropies, is expected to benefit the next generation of Black physicians. The act of kindness is part of Bloomberg's Greenwood Initiative, created earlier this year in order to address economic justice issues that have impacted Black Americans since slavery was first abolished, CNN reports.

Bloomberg Philanthropies confirmed that the donated funds will be distributed among Howard University's College of Medicine in Washington, the Morehouse School of Medicine in Atlanta, Meharry Medical College in Nashville, and the Charles R Drew University of Medicine and Science in Los Angeles. The schools then plan to use the charitable donations to create scholarships of up to $100,000 for students who are currently enrolled in programs and receiving financial aid. Unfortunately, students who graduated in spring during the last academic year will not be eligible for these scholarships. Barring the Morehouse School of Medicine, the three other colleges affirmed that Bloomberg's donation was the largest financial gift they have ever received.

The donation has been called a "game-changer" for Black students, who on average tend to enter medical school with higher amounts of debt coming out of their undergraduate studies, by Dr. Hugh Mighty, the dean at Howard University's College of Medicine. He stated, "When they graduate, medical students can have as much as $218,000. You're reducing that tremendously." Dr. James Hildreth, the resident and chief executive of Meharry Medical College, added that the former Democratic Presidential candidate's gift will "dramatically change the lifetime earning potential for its Black recipients." This is because the career options available for a Black graduate following med school are so often predicated on the need to pay back hundreds of thousands in student loan debt. "There's a huge difference in the amount of support the families can provide," he explained.

According to Hildreth, the average Black medical student comes from a family with household incomes of $75,000 or less. On the other hand, White medical students typically come from households that earn $175,000 or more. President and CEO of Charles R. Drew University of Medicine and Science David M. Carlisle indicated that colleges may choose to distribute funds differently on the basis of their student enrollment. He noted that only about 50 percent of his Los Angeles school's 112 current students are Black, whereas 45 percent of the university's students are Latinx. He did signify, nonetheless, that all students who are both currently enrolled in programs and receiving financial aid will receive some of the Bloomberg funds.

Bloomberg's gift comes at a time when the country has more than affirmed the importance of Black doctors. Research proves that Black patients are more likely to enjoy better overall health outcomes when they are treated by Black doctors. Despite this truth, Black physicians, particularly Black men doctors, are rather uncommon; though 13 percent of the country's population is Black, only five percent of practicing medical doctors are Black, the Association of American Medical Colleges reports. Bloomberg and four other authors shared in a column on the issue published Thursday, "Across higher education, nearly 70 percent of Black students who drop out cite debt as a factor—and that was before the pandemic struck. If we had more Black doctors, we would save more Black lives—and also make progress in closing the racial wealth gap."

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