Liberal billionaire philanthropist George Soros, who funds progressive drives and causes worldwide, has committed $500 million to a private liberal arts college in New York that seeks to enrich “democratic discourse by training tomorrow’s thought leaders.”
Bard College announced the donation on Thursday, describing the gift as “transformational,” calling it “among the largest ever made to higher education in the United States.” According to the school, the funding “will facilitate and strengthen Bard’s exemplary educational and social initiatives, establish the College’s most substantial endowment ever, and set the stage for a $1 billion endowment drive.” Bard officials said the school had already raised an additional $250 million “in response to Mr. Soros’ generous challenge grant,” and expects to raise another $250 million over the next five years.
“This is the most historic moment since the college’s founding in 1860,” said Bard College President Leon Botstein. “When this endowment drive is complete, Bard will have a $1 billion endowment, which will ensure its pioneering mission and its academic excellence for the future.”
Botstein serves on the Global Board of Soros’ Open Society Foundations international grantmaking network, where his responsibilities include reviewing and advising all of the programs and entities within the organization. OSF’s website credits Botstein for guiding “Bard’s innovative liberal arts BA program in New York state prisons” and writing a book that “is the basis for acclaimed public high school reforms” in several major U.S. cities, including Baltimore, New York, and Washington, D.C. He is also chancellor of the Open Society University Network (OSUN), a global partnership of educational institutions. According to The Associated Press, Soros invested $1 billion to establish the OSUN last year, calling the endeavor the “most important and most enduring project” of his life.
Bard College Receives $500 Million Endowment Pledge from Investor and Philanthropist George Soros. https://t.co/auQRVvwIrw
— Dave Winer (@davewiner) April 1, 2021
Thursday’s announcement said, “Mr. Soros’s visionary support of Bard’s role as one of two founding partners of the new Open Society University Network … has permitted the College to expand and strengthen the College’s pathbreaking network of domestic and international partnerships.”
Soros, 90, added: “Bard has had an outsized impact, setting the standard in liberal arts education in prisons, in high school age students, and in the arts and in its international work.”
Bard College plans to use the funds to “endow the College’s full array of student financial aid, faculty, and programs; enable the College to sustain its mission and to grow its international profile,” the announcement indicated.
— Dean Barker (@deanbarker) April 1, 2021
The school’s ties to Soros have drawn scrutiny for several years as some critics have likened Bard College to OSF’s education arm, Botstein’s website says.
“Bard has played an innovative and progressive role in American education without any historical wealth,” said Botstein. “It will continue to do so with this new and highly competitive endowment, to ensure equity in financial aid, reform the relationship between higher education and secondary education, promote international education, and defend the arts, humanities and basic science as the essence of liberal arts.”
Bard College is located about 90 miles north of New York City in the Hudson River Valley. The school emphasizes a commitment “to enriching culture, public life, and democratic discourse by training tomorrow’s thought leaders.”