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.
Harvard Gets Largest-Ever Donation
Family of Hong Kong-Born Investor Gives $350 Million to His Alma Mater
By Douglas Belkin
Sept. 8, 2014
The family of Gerald Chan, a Harvard-educated investor, is donating $350 million to the university’s School of Public Health, the largest gift in the 378-year history of the U.S.’s richest university.
The gift is part of a wave of enormous donations to schools with large endowments in recent years that highlights the diverging fortunes of the nation’s colleges.
China, the world’s biggest exporter of foreign students to the U.S., has become a large source of donations for the Ivy League. In July, SOHO China Chief Executive Zhang Xin and her husband, Pan Shiyi, signed a $15 million gift agreement with Harvard University as part of their $100 million endowment to send underprivileged Chinese children to elite universities around the world.
In 2010, Lei Zhang, the founder and managing partner of Hillhouse Capital Management, said he would give $8,888,888 to Yale University, which marked the largest gift to the Yale School of Management by a graduate of the school.
Harvard University alumni Gerald Chan is pictured in the Kresge Building at Harvard School of Public Health. Harvard University
A review of 208 private universities rated by Moody’s MCO +0.30% Investors Service over 10 years shows a distinct tilt toward the haves. Schools with more than $1 billion in total cash and investments received 67% of total gift dollars in 2013, up from 62% in 2003. Meanwhile, universities with less than $100 million in cash and investments received a declining share—less than 3% of total gift dollars.
“Over the past decade, there has been increasing concentration of giving to already wealthy institutions,” said Susan Fitzgerald, a senior vice president at Moody’s.
A survey of more than 800 public and private schools by the National Association of College and University Business Officers between 2010 and 2013 shows a similar trend. Schools with endowments of more than $1 billion saw their average gifts rise 41%, while those to schools with endowments of under $25 million rose 33%.
Colleges with smaller endowments are more reliant on tuition revenue and more vulnerable to increased competition or short-term slumps. A school with a small endowment has a harder time weathering a few bad years and is more apt to start cutting programs or raising tuition. Universities with larger endowments can spend more on students, get through bad years and still hold down tuition.
Dominating the list of recipients of single donations of nine figures in the last three years are familiar names: $350 million to Cornell; $350 million to Johns Hopkins; $250 million to Yale; $225 million to the University of Pennsylvania; $150 million to Harvard and $100 million each to Dartmouth and Georgetown.
The rising fortunes of the wealthy universities are due to several factors, including the growing use of large-scale data analytics, which give college fundraisers a clearer picture of not only who has the capacity to give but who has the desire. That information makes large capital campaigns increasingly efficient and boosts the advantages of wealthier schools that produce wealthier alumni.
Caroline Hoxby, a professor at Stanford who studies the economics of higher education, likens universities to venture-capital firms: They seek out the best students, invest heavily and frequently at a loss—often well beyond the cost of tuition—and hope to produce a handful of great successes who will give back enormous gifts or influence others to do so.
Beyond that, the richest schools can hire the sharpest researchers and fundraisers, she said. And as research in some areas becomes increasingly complex and expensive, only the richest schools can afford it.
Mr. Chan, born in Hong Kong, is a director of Hong Kong property developer Hang Lung Group Ltd., where his brother Ronnie Chan serves as chairman. Together, they are ranked as the 17th richest in Hong Kong by Forbes in January with a net worth estimated at $3 billion.
At Harvard, he pursued graduate work in radiological physics and radiobiology in the 1970s. He said he is giving the money to the School of Public Health because a teacher there brought the life sciences alive. In 1984, he pivoted to investing and two years later founded Morningside Group, a private-equity and venture investment group focused on biotech, cancer research and technology in North America, Asia and Europe. It has successful investments in such companies as cancer-therapy firm Biovex and New York-listed Chinese online entertainment portal YY.com.
Zoe, a seeing eye dog, at a May graduation ceremony at Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Reuters
The 63-year-old said he hopes the unrestricted gift will help professors conduct cutting-edge research to fight such global risks as Ebola and obesity. The school has a humble physical plant and a small endowment by Harvard’s august standards. As part of his gift, the school will be named the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, after his father.
Morningside’s other philanthropy activities include a college at the Chinese University of Hong Kong, and Morningside Music Bridge, a month-long summer music institute at a Canadian university.
The trend of wealthy schools enjoying larger gifts seems unlikely to reverse, said Mrs. Hoxby.
“Will the rich get richer? Probably—that’s the way it has been going for quite a long time and I don’t see forces to push things in the other direction, but I don’t think it’s inevitable,” she said.
“These schools still have to make good investments in research and students and some get arrogant, they think no matter what we do we’ll be fine because we’re so rich, we can afford to be sloppy investors. The truth is, you can’t.”
—Wei Gu contributed to this article.
China’s Ivy League Love Affair
It is no secret that the Chinese are attracted to the crimson red of Harvard. Intelligence is drawn to elite universities like physical strength is to top sports teams. With substantial evidence from the social sciences that East Asians, on average, enjoy proportionately higher aptitude scores, elite universities have now come to entice outstanding Chinese applicants on an unprecedented scale.
Harvard is not alone. Whether it is the University of California at Berkeley, Yale University, or Cambridge University in the U.K.: those top schools brim with Chinese prodigies, relatives, princelings, or else engage in China-related research and cultural diplomacy. This is good for China’s elites, but there is a dark side too –brain drain.
The latest evidence comes from a $15 million donation to Harvard by a billionaire couple, Pan Shiyi and Zhang Xin, in order to establish a “SOHO China Scholarship.” This wasn’t entirely newsworthy because Chinese donations like this to Harvard are somewhat common. However this particular story sparked outrage (or perhaps a well-orchestrated publicity campaign) on Chinese social media.
As business people, Mr. Pan and Ms. Zhang probably expect some form of return on their “investment,” apart from the SOHO namesake and patronage; that could include getting one of their own into Harvard -a family member, a relative, a friend or even many friends. Most Chinese commentators would have little problem with that, as caring for one’s family and friends is an inherent component of the Chinese/Confucian tradition (even Xi Jinping, the country’s president, sent his daughter to Harvard). In fact, most critics would do the same if only they had the financial means. However, their main concern is this: Why are they not investing in China’s education?
Chinese students (together with other East-Asians such as Singaporeans, Japanese, and South Koreans) have (on average) superior mathematics, reading, and science skills. These are readily available facts. Even the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development’s (OECD)“Pisa Study,” confirms that much: Shanghai-China, Macao-China, Hong Kong-China, and Chinese Taipei ranked the best in the world in these subjects. Why not their universities?
Beijing, meanwhile, is pushing hard to reverse the brain drain and, by extension, the flow of yuan. Tsinghua University for example, has attracted a $300 million donation from the Schwarzman Group as part of an initiative to train “future world leaders.” Peking University in 2010 hired former Harvard Professor and Director of Harvard Yenching Institute, Tu Weiming, who was notorious for having “assisted” hundreds of Chinese scholars into Harvard, cultivating a vast, almost cult-like network of adulation, loyalty, and “guanxi” (connections). Not wanting to fall behind Tsinghua, Peking University has announced the establishment of its own “future world leaders” program -the Yenching Academy.
China needs and deserves its own Harvard (and Yale, Princeton, etc). It is entirely conceivable precisely because Chinese students have momentum and a competitive advantage (which currently spurs them into succeeding elsewhere in the world). But as long as the elites in China don’t believe in their civilization, and would rather invest their wealth in education elsewhere, nothing short of a miracle is needed to wake China from its deep, historical slumber.
Thorsten Pattberg, PhD (Peking University) is a German philosopher and cultural critic. He is the author of “The East-West Dichotomy,”“Shengren,”“Inside Peking University,” and numerous articles on Chinese-Western relations. He can be reached at: pattberg ‘at’ pku.edu.cn.