John Kluge
John Kluge - 
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KAI RYSSDAL: You have to be pretty fond of your alma mater — not to mention pretty well off — to make 'em a gift of $400 million.

Lucky for Columbia University, then, that they've got a graduate who meets that description: 92-year-old John Kluge made his billions in the broadcast industry. Columbia announced this morning he's made the largest gift ever in higher education devoted just to financial aid. We asked Ashley Milne-Tyte to figure out what kind of student aid you can get for 400 million.

ASHLEY MILNE-TYTE: The university says $200 million will go to supporting and expanding existing financial aid programs for undergrads.

Jeff Cilingo of the Chronicle of Higher Education says Columbia is already trying to provide for students whose family income is less than $50,000. He says the university tells the prospective student that if they get in . . .

JEFF CILINGO: We'll make sure that there's enough financial aid between federal grants and institution grants that you will not have to take out any loans. And these programs are incredibly expensive.

So the massive bequest will play a big part in fleshing out Columbia's program.

As for the other 200 million, that's slated for scholarships and fellowships at the graduate level.

Economist David Breneman says the gift will give the school a certain edge.

DAVID BRENEMAN: This would give them a lot of market power in attracting students frankly away from some of their competitors.

Columbia is receiving its huge gift for financial aid at the same time that its top financial aid official is caught up in the ongoing student loan scandal.

BRENEMAN: The irony I suppose is this should reduce the reliance of Columbia students on loans.

Breneman says the money could insulate the university from future scandal. Because with this windfall, Columbia won't need to rely so much on outside lenders.

In New York, I'm Ashley Milne-Tyte for Marketplace.