After months of negotiations, the University has received a $10 million donation, earmarked for financial aid, intended to help admitted students from low-income Chinese families obtain a Yale education.
The gift was formally announced by the administration in Beijing during a signing ceremony on Wednesday — which took place at noon Beijing time. The donation is part of a $100 million endowment fund created by the SOHO China Foundation, an organization funded and operated by SOHO China, the nation’s largest prime office real-estate developer. The foundation’s co-founders — Chinese billionaires Zhang Xin and Pan Shiyi — established an endowment, called the SOHO China Undergraduate Scholarship Fund, earlier this year with the aim of encouraging Chinese students to apply to elite universities worldwide regardless of their financial circumstances.
“The gift will help top Chinese national students access a Yale education today and for generations to come,” University President Peter Salovey said. “The SOHO China Foundation’s extraordinary generosity will encourage outstanding students from China to apply to Yale and assure them, should they be admitted, that we will meet their full demonstrated need for financial support.”
University Vice President for Development Joan O’Neill said that talks with Zhang and Pan began in the late spring and that the couple visited Yale over the summer. O’Neill added that she hopes Zhang and Pan’s gift will encourage others to “follow their lead.”
Since completing fundraising for Yale’s two new residential colleges this summer, Salovey has made financial aid one of his top fundraising priorities.
Dean of Undergraduate Admissions Jeremiah Quinlan said the donation complements existing initiatives to reach out to low-income, high-achieving students.
“This gift supports Yale’s efforts to create a learning environment that incorporates the widest possible range of student backgrounds,” Quinlan said.
Yale is the second university to receive a gift from the SOHO Fund — in July, Zhang and Pan gave $15 million to Harvard for the same purpose.Following the announcement of the Harvard gift, Zhang told Forbes Magazine that the foundation’s next target was Yale.
According to a document released by the Office of Public Affairs, over 500 Chinese students have attended Yale College and its graduate and professional schools in the last academic year. Over the past decade, more students have come to Yale from China than any other country.
Despite excitement over the foundation’s new fund in the United States, the couple’s decision to donate to universities outside of China has been met with opposition within the country.
In an online article written for a Chinese news source — referenced in a Forbes article about the Chinese donation — Yao Shujie, a professor of economics at the University of Nottingham, criticized the couple for giving much of their wealth to American schools when their wealth came from China’s housing industry. Yao’s article generated 68,000 views within four days.
In the same Forbes article, several Chinese education professionals expressed frustration that the endowment money isn’t going towards addressing domestic Chinese issues. Some claimed the donations are meant to increase the chances that Zhang and Pan’s son, who is attending high school in the U.S.,will be accepted to an American university.
Yi-Ling Liu ’17, who attended an international school in Hong Kong, said she thinks the gift will help diversify the demographic of Chinese students studying at Yale, as the majority of Chinese students currently here tend to come from wealthier families.
“My impression is that it is still very difficult and rare for Chinese students with limited means to attend a school like Yale,” Yi-Ling said. “I am pre-empting a much more socio-economically diverse student body with a fund like this.”
Yi-Ling added that the gift, along with the recent opening of Yale Center Beijing, strengthens the relationship between the University and China. She noted that China is becoming a more prominent player in the world of academia.
Zoey Peterson ’17 said any fund that gives students access to a Yale education who might otherwise be unable to attend is something the University can be proud of. She said the gift reflects the University’s shift towards becoming a more global institution, and it will contribute to defeating the notion that only the children of wealthy families can attend Yale.
“Even before I got in [to Yale], my parents thought that Yale and the Ivies were schools for rich students,” Peterson said. “Everyone thought that it wasn’t enough to be smart.”
In 2001, Yale’s extended its need-blind admissions policy to international students.