Ford Foundation’s Special Appropriation

  • Education
  • 1955

In 1955 the Ford Foundation announced an extraordinary “special appropriation” of $560 million—the equivalent of more than $5 billion in 2015—the largest single investment in the history of philanthropy—to strengthen America’s private colleges and hospitals. The foundation’s stated aims were to bolster educational salaries, help private colleges compete with state-subsidized universities, and improve medical education and services. Over an 18-month period, checks were sent to every one of the 615 accredited private colleges in the U.S., with the amount determined by the size of their 1954-55 payroll, adding bonuses for colleges that could demonstrate they were “a leader in raising teacher salaries.” The University of Pennsylvania, for instance, received a grant of $2.7 million ($24 million in 2014 dollars). Checks were also written to every one of the country’s private, nonprofit hospitals, with the sum determined by the number of births and patient-days they recorded in 1954. Commenting on the sum effect of Ford’s massive gift, the president of Yale University characterized it as a “trailblazing action giving new strength to American education.”