Yale-NUS raised $80m in donations, far short of target

NUS president says $300m needed to build $1b endowment, many students receive aid

Yale-NUS College has managed to raise only $80 million out of its $300 million target for endowed donations, National University of Singapore (NUS) president Tan Eng Chye has said.

In an opinion piece in The Straits Times today, he said the $300 million target is required to build an endowment of around $1 billion and even with government seed funding and matching, the Yale-NUS endowment is much smaller than needed to sustain it.

The Yale-NUS website states that its endowment as at March is $429.8 million.

Professor Tan did not give the breakdown of funding sources in Yale-NUS' endowment.

The Ministry of Education (MOE) has a policy of matching endowment contributions to Yale-NUS and other autonomous universities in Singapore. In 2019, MOE said it matches donations at a more generous 3:1 ratio for newer institutions.

Prof Tan said the majority of Yale-NUS students are on financial aid and small class sizes make it expensive to run. "Yale-NUS operates with a ratio of eight students to one faculty member, compared with more than 12 to one in the University Scholars Programme (USP), and 17 to one in the rest of NUS," he said.

"Hence, the resources required to operate Yale-NUS are much higher than we had planned."

He added that to make Yale-NUS financially sustainable in the long run, NUS would need to make adjustments to the immersive small group learning environment, among other aspects.

Tuition fees would have to increase significantly, he said.

Prof Tan's comments come about two weeks after NUS' announcement on Aug 27 that it would be merging Yale-NUS with NUS' USP to form the New College - a placeholder name.

Yale-NUS is a liberal arts college founded in a collaboration between Ivy League university Yale in the United States and NUS that began in 2011.

The college's financial sustainability has come into the spotlight as a major reason offered by university leaders for its closure.

Ambassador-at-Large Chan Heng Chee, who sits on the Yale-NUS College board, told The Straits Times the main purpose of merging Yale-NUS with the USP is to "democratise" liberal arts education in Singapore and make it available and accessible to more local students.

Prof Tan said in his op-ed that he considers Yale-NUS a great success and the move to combine Yale-NUS College and the USP is meant to amplify, not diminish, the college's story.

"The overriding reason for this move is the vital role that a broad-based interdisciplinary education plays within the re-imagining of higher education at NUS," he said.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 11, 2021, with the headline 'Yale-NUS raised $80m in donations, far short of target'. Subscribe