Big gifts on horizon for colleges

The University is “one or two gifts away from breaking ground” on the two new residential colleges, according to former Yale Corporation Senior Fellow Roland Betts ’68.

Ever since University President Richard Levin announced in 2009 that construction of the $500 million project would be placed on hold, Yale officials have worked to fund-raise the colleges’ entire cost from donors. With $300 million still outstanding, Vice President for Development Joan O’Neill said the University is currently in talks with potential donors over “very significant gifts” but declined to give specifics. Levin also said the University has “significant conversations underway” but would not comment on the size, donor or timeline for the gifts.

While the University broke ground on the School of Management’s $222 million new campus in May 2011, before fund-raising had been completed, Levin said construction on the new colleges will have to wait until the entire $500 million is raised. The University initially planned to break ground this fall, but Levin said he does not expect construction to begin before he steps down on June 30.

“[We began construction early on SOM] because SOM was $25 million short of its fundraising goal and we were quite confident that was money that could be raised,” Levin said. “It’s a big difference to be $300 million short.”

If one or two gifts were able to meet the $300 million shortfall, they would be among the largest in Yale’s history.

The amount raised so far has only increased slightly since February — when then-Vice President for Development Inge Reichenbach said $187 million had been raised — to a total of “over $190 million,” according to O’Neill. Once the money is raised, the University will still have to make room in the budget to pay for operating costs, Levin said.

In a Thursday interview, Levin said that the new residential colleges project was the most notable unfinished goal of his administration, and that he planned to prioritize fund-raising for the colleges during his last year as president of Yale.

“The best thing I can do is to raise as much for my successor as I can, to leave some sort of dowry behind,” Levin said.

Betts said he expects Levin to continue pursuing the gifts during his sabbatical after he steps down, though Levin said he does not have any plans during his sabbatical year beyond writing on economics and higher education.

The new colleges will be located north of Grove Street Cemetery in the triangle comprised of Prospect, Canal and Sachem streets.

Correction: Sept. 7

An earlier version of this article misstated the cost of the School of Management’s new campus. It is $222 million, not $322 million.


  • Polistotle

    The plans for the two new colleges are a bad idea that should be officially and permanently ended. Yale, at its best is a small elite college and the proposed expansion diminishes these advantages.

    Yale should take advantage of this huge fund by once and for all creating a safe, continguos college community. This plan would be a far more radical improvement–bridging the gap between the memories of the safe haven Yale College was in previous generations and the dangerous urban community that has threatened it in recent generations. This true paradigm shift could be accomplished by purchasing York, High, Wall, and Elm Streets–creating a contiguous college campus community. Close the streets, plant elm trees, and nurture a generation of scholars whose undergraduate experience is not endangered by drug-seeking thugs committing property crimes and lowering the quality of college life with vile public behavior.

    Yale as an oasis is a far better idea than diluting the collegial element, devaluing the degree, and stretching financial aid dollars ever thinner by expanding the class size.

    • Carl

      Let’s count the ways this comment is wrong:
      1. Yale may be elite, but it’s not small, and it’s not just a college.
      2. The new colleges–an 15% expansion–would enhance the Yale experience by uniting the undergraduate campus with Science Hill.
      3. There is no “huge fund” that can be “take[n] advantage” of. The potential new gifts–and that’s all they are now, potential–would be for the colleges, and not for any other purpose.
      4. If you think New Haven would “sell” four more public streets to the University, you don’t know the Board of Aldermen very well. Perhaps you’re also in the market for bridges near Manhattan?
      5. “Plant elm trees.” Ever heard of the dangers of monoculture?
      6. “Devaluing the degree.” Have you seen Yale’s admissions numbers lately? Yale is far more selective today than whenever you attended it.
      7. “Bridging the gap between the memories.” Ipse dixisti.

    • Sara

      The colleges shouldn’t be added until traffic safety is improved. Much moreso than “drug seeking thugs”, errant drivers are by far the principal threat to safety of students and downtown workers– with about two dozen University affiliated pedestrians randomly killed or seriously injured in our city just in the past few years. On the colleges:

  • ldffly

    Very bad news.

    Proponents of the new colleges should understand that the university very likely will not have endowment income to do proper maintenance on these new buildings, just as they didn’t have endowment income to maintain (or even heat) the rest of the campus from the early 1970s, until Levin took office. In twenty years, you will start hearing about deferred maintenance issues.

    I also have serious doubts that the administration will properly adjust faculty numbers. To adjust properly will take more money. Where will the money for new faculty come from? Will you also see a stealth increase in graduate school enrollment? Will those new graduate students be the cheap labor to “instruct” undergraduates?

    Where will the pressure to enroll more undergraduates stop? There was pressure for 6000 students back in the late ’70s and to his credit Pres. Giamatti resisted it. Why would such pressures not return when these colleges are finished? Look out, think. This whole thing is actually an arrow in the heart of the college system. Growth in US population is irrelevant. A 6000 student College is very different from a 4000 student College. 6000 plus would simply be unrecognizable. Over the long term, the Colleges will become nothing but elaborate dormitories. Don’t say small and elite then.

    • Yalie

      Every major Yale construction project now includes future maintennance needs in its budget.

    • eli1

      real talk for a second…

      1)the college system is already a joke…any sense of collegiality is already gone. Ask an alumni to compare the colleges in the 70s and the present and the difference in atmosphere is night and day

      2) Yale has a 20 BILLION dollar endowment. One of the things that always pissed me off about Yale was their unwillingness to actually use endowment money. Isn’t the point of the endowment to maintain excellence even during economic or other hardships? What is the point of having so much money if Yale is afraid to spend it. This pissing contest between H and Y over who has a bigger endowment is so stupid.

      3) Devaluing the degree?? Clown attitude, bro. There are so many qualified people out there, why not give more people a chance at a Yale degree. I thought you super liberals were supposed to be all about equal opportunity and stuff like that.

  • Carl

    And to the endowment point, a passage from the Yale Tomorrow final report:

    The Campaign had a substantial impact on Yale’s long-term financial stability, with
    40.4 percent of total giving—$1.571 billion—directed to the endowment. Donors created sixty-nine professorships in disciplines spanning the University, and $277.3 million was directed to financial aid endowment. These funds will support Yale’s teaching and research in perpetuity.

    So the size of the endowed faculty has been increasing. As have financial-aid endowments. And the above numbers will likely be exceeded in the next capital campaign, which the next president will plan and lead.

  • Branford73

    I am in favor of the new colleges and the modest expansion of the undergraduate population. I would like to see a way that all freshmen could be housed in one area again. I understand the Old Campus already doesn’t have enough room for a whole class. Maybe we can buy part of the Green from New Haven, hah hah. Or convert Trumbull to all freshman and just go with 13 colleges.

    If I hit the lottery I will endow a fund to enable/require the college dining halls to resume using china with the symbols of each college.

  • terryhughes

    It’s a little odd to let these cats out of the bag before the actual big announcements.

    But it’s wonderful news none the less. The new colleges have been marvelously well thought out. The plans are gorgeous and utterly charming in an era where both “gorgeous” and “charming” are in short supply. The colleges will allow for a manageable increase in the size of the student body (and in the resulting alumni giving pool) while enabling a substantial increase in the faculty, which, in turn, will abet Yale’s continuing pivot towards the sciences without cost to its fabulous humanities resources.

    All this while bringing needed jobs to New Haven and enlivening a whole neighborhood, a portion of New Haven well worth engaging further. I love New Haven and New Havenites, both Yalies and others. God bless them all, and God bless President Levin.

  • SY78

    The real news here is that the groundbreaking for the new colleges, which at last report was to be this fall, has been put off until next summer, at the earliest. It’s doubtful that a couple of big donors are preparing to fill the funding gap–most likely the YDN is misreading the Betts quote. I suspect one reason for Levin’s retirement is his realization that he was not likely to find the funding for this project anytime soon.

  • The Anti-Yale

    More fortress/moat architecture. Just what new Haveners expect.


    • Polistotle

      And just what New Haveners deserve! Drug-infested street thugs who never learned to swim. Moats are a good thing.

  • yalengineer

    Devaluing my degree? The only way how I see my degree gets devalued is if Yale fails to continue to produce great minds and leaders of society.

    If expanding the school to bolster the science and engineering departments and to be able to draw in a larger class of talented students prevents the above from happening, I’m all for it.

  • The Anti-Yale

    “Yale has a 20 BILLION dollar endowment. One of the things that always pissed me off about Yale was their unwillingness to actually use endowment money.”

    **The billions have been funneled through Wall Street, the Derivative Dynasty.
    When a pimple becomes a whitehead, and you squeeze the whitehead, the white infected pus exits the pimple. In other words, the pus is the “derivative” of the infected pimple.
    Am I being clear with this imagery about the morality of Yale’s money making machine, Mr. Swenson’s assurances to the contrary notwithstanding?