Zhang Xin, the CEO of property developer Soho China, is in talks with Yale University about funding scholarships for Chinese students to attend the exclusive school. If finalised, the arrangement between Zhang’s Soho China foundation, which she controls with her husband and business partner Pan Shiyi, would be the second major gift by the flamboyant Chinese couple to an Ivy League school.
According to a report in the Yale Daily News, the US University’s Vice President for Development Joan O’Neill confirmed last week that her office has been discussing with Zhang about setting up a scholarship fund for Chinese students to attend the university. “We have been talking with them about possible support for financial aid for Chinese undergraduates at Yale,” O’Neill told the Daily News.
According to Yale’s website, the total cost of attending the university for the upcoming school year is estimated at $63,250 including room, board, and tuition.
In July this year, Zhang and Pan signed an agreement with Harvard University to donate $15 million to set up a scholarship fund for underprivileged Chinese students to attend the Massachusetts-based school. At the time, the flamboyant real estate entrepreneurs said that the gift was part of a plan to donate $100 million to help Chinese undergraduates study at top universities in the United States and United Kingdom.
Zhang and Pan Looking for a Place on the Global Stage
Zhang and Pan appear to be going through with the donation despite criticism in China about their interests to fund scholarships at some of the world’s most expensive universities, rather than at more affordable domestics schools.
Users on China’s Weibo social media platform scorched the billionaire couple for “forgetting their Chinese roots” in favor of donating to high profile foreign institutions that cater to the world’s elites.
“I only want to tell China’s entrepreneurs: think about children in China’s West,” one user posted on Weibo. “(They) don’t have enough food and have no shoes to wear in winter. For those students who study abroad, which of their families doesn’t have connections or money?”
Zhang herself is fond of referencing her own rags to riches story, which includes starting out in life working in a factory, before catapulting to billionaire status after securing an education in the UK.
In recent years Zhang has been particularly active in the US, buying a New York townhouse for $26 million, and joining with a Brazilian group to take a $1 billion stake in the GM building in Manhattan.