Yale-NUS College, the joint liberal arts college Yale is founding with the National University of Singapore, is starting from scratch in almost every respect — including its endowment.
As Yale and the National University of Singapore continue to hammer out details of Yale-NUS, such as plans for its faculty and curriculum, the two institutions have begun a major fundraising push to ensure its financial stability. The new liberal arts college will have an endowment that operates independently of Yale’s and is handled by managers overseas at NUS, not by Yale investment guru David Swensen or members of his team, University President Richard Levin said.
Donated funds and money put into the endowment will supplement the budget finalized by the Singaporean government in March, which is intended to finance the majority of the college’s expenses. Yale will not fund the institution, as per its agreement with NUS. Levin declined to comment on the size of the Yale-NUS operating budget in March.
“The hope is that you build up a large endowment so that you have funding that is truly under the direct control of the college,” said Charles Bailyn, the inaugural dean of the faculty at Yale-NUS. “I know they’re trying to do something pretty substantial in that regard.”
NUS is primarily funded by the Singaporean government, and also has an endowment that was valued at 2.01 billion Singapore dollars, or roughly $1.55 billion, in March 2010. Yale’s endowment was valued at $16.7 billion as of June 30, 2010.
Though the Yale-NUS endowment managers will not have the renown of the Yale investments team behind their major decisions, Levin said he believes the NUS investments committee is “very capable.” He added that numerous financial firms have transferred their continental headquarters to Singapore, making the country a “major financial center” in Asia.
While any amount of money is technically sufficient to start an endowment, Provost Peter Salovey said that the planning numbers for the Yale-NUS funds are in the hundreds of millions. The hope, Bailyn said, is to put private funding at Yale-NUS on par with that at top-tier liberal arts colleges in the United States, such as Williams and Amherst colleges, which had respective endowments of $1.5 billion and $1.4 billion as of June 30, 2010.
Most of the fundraising efforts are currently based in Singapore rather than the United States, Levin said, and are led by NUS President Tan Chorh Chuan. Though Levin said he has helped Chuan recruit donors abroad through conference calls, he is trying not to tap into Yale’s donor base.
“There are donors out there all over the world who are very interested in supporting a collaboration between these two universities and in supporting higher education in Asia,” Salovey said. “We would like to tap those donors to raise an endowment for the new school.”
Philanthropy is a relatively new tradition in Asia, but Levin said he believes the trend is gaining momentum, adding that NUS, along with universities in Hong Kong, have successfully raised money for development.
Fundraising will also become more effective once Yale-NUS names its inaugural president to spearhead the effort, Bailyn said.
Though the presidential search has commenced, Bailyn said there is no timeline in place for hiring a candidate. Members of the college’s governing board — the equivalent of the Yale Corporation for Yale-NUS — will make the final decision on the appointment, he added.
Yale-NUS will hold its first admissions cycle this fall, though students will not arrive on campus until 2013.