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Open Society Foundations Give $500 Million to Bard College

NEW YORK—The Open Society Foundations announced a $500 million investment in Bard College, one of the largest gifts ever given to an institution of higher education in the United States. The investment is a challenge grant that the school hopes to build into a $1 billion endowment in the coming years.

Open Society Chair and Founder George Soros has long been a supporter of Bard, whose approach to education reflects the core values he brings to his philanthropic endeavors: a deep commitment to critical thinking, free speech, the value of dissent, and the importance of civic engagement.

The school, a liberal arts college located in Annandale-on-Hudson, New York, has been a leading innovator, launching the Bard Prison Initiative to help provide a college education to incarcerated students; Bard Early Colleges, which allows high school students to access higher education in a challenging, supportive, and affordable environment; and numerous international partnerships, which prioritize the need to expand educational opportunities for underserved communities.

“Bard has had an outsized impact, setting the standard in liberal arts education in prisons, in high school–age students, in the arts, and in its international work,” said Soros.

Soros chose Bard as a founding partner (along with Central European University, which he started in 1991) of the Open Society University Network, a global network of educational institutions launched in 2020 to help better prepare students around the world for current and future challenges.

Open Society’s pledge, along with Bard’s matching contributions, will support the full array of the college’s programs, faculty, and student financial aid, while helping the school sustain its mission and further develop its international profile.

“Bard has played an innovative and progressive role in American education without any historical wealth,” said Bard College President Leon 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 the liberal arts.”

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