Bard College in Annandale-on-Hudson, New York, has announced a $60 million challenge grant from George Soros and the Open Society Foundations to advance its mission as a private academic institution dedicated to the public interest.
The grant will provide support for the college's new Center for Civic Engagement, which brings together many of the school's domestic and international initiatives and is key to its efforts to redefine the role of the university in modern society. To meet the matching requirement, Bard must raise an additional $120 million from other donors; however, it will be able to use the OSF funds before the goal has been reached.
The impact of the grant on the small liberal arts college, which has a relatively modest endowment of some $200 million, is likely to be enormous. While the foundation generally does not support higher education in the United States, the grant was awarded in recognition of Bard's wide-ranging engagement with global issues, including dual-degree programs with St. Petersburg State University, the American University of Central Asia in Kyrgyzstan, and Al-Quds University, which has campuses in East Jerusalem and the West Bank. The college also offers educational programs in Nicaragua and South Africa, as well as programs for high school students in New York City, New Orleans, and Newark, New Jersey.
"We decided to create an institutional culture of serious, thoughtful, and nonpartisan engagement in the world," Bard College president Leon Botstein, who has been close to Soros for years, told the New York Times. "Bard has really taken seriously all of the John Dewey arguments about the relationship between education and democracy. It can't be done merely through the curriculum."