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.

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