With $ 11.1 billion in growth, students and faculty call for revised funding priorities

James Larson, Principal Photographer

After October 14 from the University announcement that his endowment had skyrocketed $ 42.3 billion in fiscal 2021, students and faculty took a toll on university services they say are in dire need of funding.

The University’s endowment had a 40.2 percent rate of return in fiscal 2021, Yale’s highest rate of return since 2000. Although students and faculty were largely optimistic that the increase in endowment could ease the financial burden on the communities of Yale and New Haven, some also expressed concern that the University would be reluctant to spend large endowment funds to invest in the city or the School of public health, hire new members of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences, or cover student services like laundry and printing.

“Looks like Yale has X billion dollars to say it, and to occasionally buy fresh lobsters and ice sculptures, but when undergraduates and New Haven in general have trouble, Yale suddenly can’t. use the funds to help effectively and in the way the community asks for it, “Abigail Grimes ’23 told The News.” If the money is not for Yale, what is it for? Having the funds to prevent damage and not doing it is violence in the end. “

University spokeswoman Karen Peart told the News that endowment distributions to the University’s operating budget have increased at annual rates of 4.7% and 6.9% over the 10 and Last 20 years, respectively.

“The endowment contains thousands of funds established for specific purposes and legally restricted; only 24% of endowment spending is unlimited and available for general use, ”Peart wrote in an email to News. “A 25% supplement is planned to support teaching and research, of which 19% is geared towards equipment and operations and 18% towards financial aid. The remaining endowment funds are intended to support various departments or programs.

Logan Roberts ’23, director of affordability at Yale College Council, said high endowment returns are “good for everyone” as long as they are awarded “correctly,” but expressed concern about the makes student problems often underfunded and unresolved. Roberts pointed out that reducing the costs of laundry and printing services for students is a concrete step the University can take to ease the financial burden on students.

In light of the recent comeback in endowment, Roberts said, struggling students are a “political choice” on Yale’s part.

“I think there has been a good faith effort to invest in first generation and low income communities and to support first generation and low income students, so I want to give this warning,” said Roberts. “I am heartened to see that they have gotten this feedback, but I am skeptical that students are actually seeing the fruits of it in their daily lives, which is concerning.”

While Roberts acknowledged that the endowment cannot be liquidated and spent at will, he said the magnitude of student demands was relatively small compared to Yale’s assets as a whole.

Peart explained that endowment distributions support the University’s ability to meet all financial needs of undergraduates and offer universal admissions without the need.

Economics professor John Geanakoplos told The News that endowment returns give Yale “a tremendous opportunity to excel.”

“I hope Yale keeps an eye on the ball, and this is inspiring academic research and teaching,” Geanakoplos said. “This is the mission of the University. Yale’s FAS faculty has grown smaller than its peers. Our objective was to reach 800 FAS professors, and we are now at 676. Because of 2008, we have reduced our objectives from 800 to 700. There is no longer any reason with this new endowment to lower our numbers. Goals.

During his tenure as President of the FAS, Geanakoplos authored several reports on COVID-era spending, arguing that the hiring and salary freeze instituted by the University during the pandemic were inconsistent with the endowment smoothing rule, which warns the University to abruptly change expenses.

Geanakoplos added that the University needed 800 “excellent and diverse” FAS members, a goal that could not be achieved without paying professors competitive salaries.

Alex Chun ’24 recalled being delighted to witness the increase in endowment yield, suggesting that ROI could be a way to celebrate David Swensen GRD ’80’s “remarkable career and legacy” , who was Yale’s chief investment officer until his death in May 2021.

“As an aspiring venture capitalist, I was particularly pleased to learn from Matt Mendelsohn, CIO of the Yale Investments Office, that the endowment had particularly high returns in venture capital,” said Chun. “With Mendelsohn in charge of Yale’s venture capital portfolio, I would love to see the Yale Investments Office allocate a larger percentage of the private equity endowment each year. ”

Chun added that he hoped the increased endowment would directly benefit the student body through financial aid, research grants or university programs.

Several students, however, were alarmed by the high rate of return of University endowments after a year that saw many communities economically disadvantaged by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Jesus Ramos ’25 told the News he was “shocked” when he heard of the return of the high endowment.

“During a year when so many people lost their livelihoods and struggled financially, Yale continued to make money despite the circumstances,” Ramos said. “It almost seems ridiculous that an institution like Yale could have benefited from the pandemic when so many people, especially those from communities of color and low-income communities, have been badly affected, that it means the loss of life. loved ones or their form of income. . ”

Krishna Mudumbi, postdoctoral researcher in pharmacology at the Faculty of Medicine, said the growth in the endowment itself is not of concern. However, he said he hoped the higher returns would translate into more resources being spent on the university community.

“I have no problem with Yale making money… but my wish would be to see some of it going towards childcare,” Mudumbi said. “It’s very difficult for the parents who both have to come to work, and there are plenty of days when we need help with our children.

Mudumbi, a father of two young children, noted that ‘crisis care’ assistance was made available during the pandemic, which enabled him to hire home babysitters for a number of days. Still, he said Yale daycares have long been unaffordable for postdoctoral researchers, who do not receive child care allowances.

Jackson Higginbottom YSPH ’20, program administrator at the Yale School of Public Health, told the News in early October that he didn’t think a reasonable amount of Yale’s endowment was going to YSPH.

“If you’ve spoken to a YSPH student, you’ll hear how he feels neglected by the University,” Higginbottom said. “While our large lectures take place at the School of Medicine, most of our departmental courses are taken in the windowless basement of LEPH. We do not have a dining hall, special accommodation, or dedicated study space outside the lobby of 47 College St.

Higginbottom noted that only 0.6 percent of Yale’s endowment was directed to YSPH from December 2019.

For some members of the Endowment Justice Coalition, a group of students who advocate that Yale divest its endowment from the fossil fuel industry and other areas the group deems unethical, the size of the endowment of Yale is problematic in itself.

“In my opinion, the purpose of the endowment is not to be spent but to continue to protect and maintain its wealth hoarding structures,” coalition member Garrett Frye-Mason ’23 told the News. “The Yale administration frequently notices that the university does not spend the endowment because it is set aside for ‘a rainy day.’

Frye-Mason said, however, that this claim was “made ridiculous” by Yale’s high rate of returns after the “rainy day” of the COVID-19 pandemic.

University Rector Scott Strobel told the News in April 2021 that the pandemic had cost Yale more than $ 325 million due to lost revenue and additional expenses related to COVID-19.

Josie Steuer Ingall ’23, another EJC organizer, suggested that Yale’s reluctance to spend its endowment was evidence of hoarding wealth as an “intellectual project”, arguing that the university had acquired capital in order to differentiate itself from other higher education institutions.

“Especially as higher education has become fiercer, more competitive, and more clearly positioned as a business product in the neoliberal era, I think how Yale continues to differentiate itself is in the volume of its money. “said Steuer Ingall.

Steuer Ingall suggested that Yale already had sufficient funds to provide for the needs of future generations at school while spending money on academic programming, health care infrastructure for students and increased contributions to New Haven.

Yale’s voluntary contribution to New Haven was $ 13 million this year, and University President Peter Salovey expressed optimism on increasing voluntary payment during his tenure.

Grimes also stressed the importance of funding mental health care through the Yale endowment, describing the current system as unacceptable.

Peart, however, pointed to the creation of the YC3 program last spring, along with the addition of six full-time positions within Yale Mental Health and Counseling, demonstrating the University’s investment in access to mental health and wellness.

“These ongoing efforts demonstrate Yale’s commitment to providing a more accessible and less intimidating path for students to seek help where they live and study,” said Peart.

Grimes wrote a opinion piece in the News about her experience with Yale Mental Health Services in March 2021.


Lucy Hodgman covers student life. She previously covered the Yale College Council for the News. Originally from Brooklyn, New York, she is in her second year at Grace Hopper majoring in English.


Isaac Yu writes about Yale faculty and academics. He’s also the production and design editor for the News, and has previously covered transportation and urban planning in New Haven. Originally from Garland, Texas, he is a sophomore at Berkeley College majoring in urban studies.

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