Poor Chinese get $10 million in Yale scholarships by Scott Cendrowski @FortuneMagazine October 29, 2014, 4:38 AM EDT E-mail Tweet Facebook Google Plus Linkedin Share icons The power couple behind SOHO China, the developer that has dotted Beijing with futuristic-looking Zaha Hadid-designed complexes, today announced a $10 million scholarship with Yale University for financially-strapped Chinese students. “We hope the donations will help Yale admit more Chinese students, and those from modest backgrounds,” Pan Shiyi, Soho’s chairman, who along with his wife Zhang Xin, Soho’s CEO, created a $100 million foundation earlier this year for education, said at a signing ceremony Wednesday in Beijing. The Yale endowment comes just months after Soho allotted $15 million for Harvard. The scholarships are just the latest lagging indicator of the swell of Chinese interest in American higher education. Last year the number of Chinese students enrolled in U.S. colleges and universities jumped 21% to 235,000 students, according to the Institute of International Education’s Open Doors report. Pan said he met Yale president Peter Salovey this spring in his New Haven office for sandwiches before touring the campus. He was introduced to a Chinese student who said she had been rejected from 10 other universities for financial reasons before settling at Yale. The university, like Harvard, employs a “needs blind” acceptance policy admitting students regardless of their financial means. Yale president Peter Salovey was in town for the signing ceremony at Soho’s new Zaha Hadid-designed complex on the edge of Beijing’s downtown. He opened his remarks to the small crowd with a typical foreigner greeting—Da jia hao! ( Hello everyone) —the same phrase Mark Zuckerberg used in front of Chinese students last week. Salovey emphasized Yale’s unique relationship with China. The country’s first student to study in the U.S., Yung Wing, graduating in 1854, during the end of the Qing Dynasty; Yale says it was the first American university to teach the Chinese language. Salovey says more international students at Yale come from China than anywhere else. Yale has more than 500 Chinese students in its undergraduate and graduate schools out of 12,000 students. He did, however, stop short of guaranteeing an increased ratio of Chinese students because of the Soho scholarship. Although Yale is increasing its student size by 15% by fall 2017, its first expansion since the 1960s, the ratio of Chinese students may not change. Of Soho’s scholarship, he said, “I know that it will allow us to look much more aggressively toward wonderful applicants we get from China.” The Soho China Foundation’s endowment of U.S. universities has created some blowback with China, where critics ask if the money would be better served at Chinese colleges. A reporter from China Daily, the English-language state-owned newspaper, repeated the criticism, to which Pan replied that Soho has also endowed Chinese schools in years past. Pan admitted he’s jealous of the students studying abroad. Born in the poor western province Gansu, Pan said the closest he’s gotten to studying abroad is a recent invitation from Vanke founder Wang Shi, another large Chinese real estate developer, to join him at Harvard as a visiting scholar. Pan’s wife, Zhang Xin, who’s better known than him in the West because of an appearance on 60 Minutes and her investment in Manhattan’s General Motors building, worked in a factory before earning full scholarships to study at the U.K.’s University of Sussex and Cambridge. To meet the swelling demand from Chinese students, Pan said the couple was looking into Stanford and Duke as the next possible schools for scholarships.