Dream of a Yale education now in reach for low-income Chinese students

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Yale president Peter Salovey with SOHO China president Pan Shiyi (center) and CEO Zhang Xin.

SOHO China Foundation co-founders Zhang Xin and Pan Shiyi have made a $10 million gift to Yale to support students from low-income families in China who are admitted to the university. The gift, which establishes a financial aid endowed fund — the SOHO China Undergraduate Scholarship Fund — was celebrated with a formal signing ceremony in Beijing on Oct. 29 at Wanjing SOHO, a landmark building by architect Zaha Hadid.

“This gift will help top Chinese national students access a Yale education today and for generations to come. 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,” said Yale University President Peter Salovey.

The Yale gift is part of a $100 million endowment fund established in 2014 by the SOHO China Foundation, a philanthropic organization solely funded and operated by SOHO China, the nation’s largest prime office property developer. The goal is to encourage Chinese students to apply to the world’s top universities, regardless of their financial circumstances. Recipients of scholarships underwritten by the fund will be known as SOHO China Scholars.

“Every person’s potential is like a hidden gem, and education is the tool that unlocks human potential,” said Pan. “The SOHO China Scholarships aim to provide the best possible educational opportunities to the most outstanding students from Mainland China, enabling them to maximize their potential in their contribution to mankind.” 

The gift builds on university-wide efforts to make Yale accessible to students all over the world, regardless of their financial circumstances. In 2001, Yale extended its decades-old need-blind admissions policy to international students so that a Yale education would not be limited to only those students abroad who can afford the full cost of attending. Yale also guarantees to meet 100% of the demonstrated financial need of international students. It is one of only a handful of colleges in the United States to make this commitment. 

“By committing to an admissions policy that does not consider a student’s ability to pay, and by meeting the full financial need of all admitted students (with no loans required), we ensure that Yale is accessible to the most talented students from around the world, regardless of their family’s income,” said Jeremiah Quinlan, dean of undergraduate admissions. “This gift supports Yale’s efforts to create a learning environment that incorporates the widest possible range of student backgrounds.”

Expanding on its commitment to bring the world’s most talented students to Yale, the university will grow its undergraduate student body by 15% when construction of two new residential colleges is completed, bringing total undergraduate enrollment to over 6,000. 

Yale’s engagement in China dates to the early 19th century when Yung Wing — China’s first student to study in the United States — matriculated in 1854. It was also the first university in the United States to teach Mandarin. Since that time, Yale has been a destination for students from China, and over the past decade more international students at Yale have come from China than any other country in the world. In the last academic year, the university welcomed more than 500 students from China to Yale College and its graduate and professional schools.

The signing ceremony with SOHO China comes on the heels of a conference in Beijing to launch the Yale Center Beijing. Located in the Chaoyang section of China’s capital, the 16,500-square-foot space — Yale’s only physical center in China — will be used to host conferences, workshops, and other events developed by the university’s schools and programs. 

Currently, more than 100 Yale faculty members are engaged in research in or about China. Over the past decade the range of programs related to China has grown to include the China-Yale Advanced Leadership Program for University Presidents; the China-Yale Senior Government Leadership Programs; executive education programs for Chinese provincial and municipal environmental officials at the School of Forestry and Environmental Studies; and the Law School’s China Center. 

Watch the official announcement and hear from SOHO China Chairman Pan Shiyi.

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