A new matching gift challenge at the Yale School of Public Health (YSPH) is making it easier than ever for friends and alumni of the school to establish an endowed scholarship to help pay for a future student’s education.
The minimum amount required to create an endowed scholarship is $50,000, which can be conveyed to the school over five years. But now, through the holiday giving season and beyond, anyone who wishes to start an endowed scholarship need only contribute half the minimum amount - $25,000 over five years – as the matching gift program will cover the rest.
Endowed scholarships have never been more necessary and important, said Cornelia Evans, the school’s senior director of development and alumni affairs.
The Yale School of Public Health experienced a surge in enrollment over the past year and that trend is only expected to continue, putting increased pressure on the school’s limited endowment. The school is providing a record number of students with scholarship aid this academic year, with 43% of that aid coming from endowed funds.
“This Endowed Scholarship Challenge Fund has the potential to increase exponentially the amount of scholarship funding that we can offer to our students by inspiring others to give,” Evans said. “The challenge fund creates a unique incentive for alumni and friends of the school who may not be able to meet the existing endowment threshold of $50,000 but who still wish to engage with the school and establish a legacy at Yale. It basically allows individuals to double their philanthropic impact.”
The Endowed Scholarship Challenge Fund was made possible through two generous donations to the school, the providers of which have chosen to remain anonymous.
One of those donors said they were motivated to create the Challenge Fund after learning of the significant debt many YSPH students carry and the challenges they face paying the money back, which can distract them from their learning and delay their future careers.
“YSPH students should be able to accept their dream jobs upon graduation without worry about how they can pay down so much student debt,” the donor said. “Endowed scholarship funds can enable this and launch these amazing students quickly into the public health careers that so desperately need their help.”
Close to 70% of Yale School of Public Health students currently rely on some form of financial aid. The average student debt post-graduation is more than $61,000.
Exacerbating the problem is the fact that the Yale School of Public Health’s endowment is much smaller than other Yale professional schools, significantly limiting the school’s ability to provide financial aid. Through a combination of grant and scholarship funding, the maximum support YSPH typically offers students in residence is about $30,000 per year.
Funded scholarships are one of the best ways to help students pursuing careers in public health, Evans said. One of the donors who helped create the challenge fund went a step further, saying that addressing student debt is “essential” to supporting talented YSPH students who are absolutely committed to making the world a better place.
“Without endowed scholarship funds, many students must take out loans, and also take on one or more jobs,” the donor said. “This outside work hinders their ability to take advantage of all the lectures, forums and community work that Yale has to offer for the short time they are here.”
Debt obligations can also force graduates to hold off on pursuing important – yet usually lower paying - jobs in government and nonprofit sectors because those jobs cannot cover their student bills. “Yet, we need their talents in those sectors now, more than ever,” the donor said.
Evans said endowed scholarships also allow YSPH to attract and retain some of the best and brightest students from across the country and around the world.
“Besides helping students meet their immediate financial needs, scholarship funds are highly impactful and effective in allowing YSPH to secure the strongest student candidates who can pursue future careers in public health without worrying about a future burden of high debt,” she said.
The Endowed Scholarship Challenge Fund comes at a time when Yale University is in the midst of an ambitious, five-year “For Humanity” capital campaign. The campaign, launched in early October 2021, seeks to raise $7 billion to help future generations of university faculty, students and staff tackle the greatest challenges facing humankind.