After receiving a $150 million donation from billionaire David Geffen, the Yale School of Drama announced its move to tuition-free degree and certificate programs.
On Wednesday, the Yale School of Drama, newly renamed the David Geffen School of Drama at Yale, recognized the tremendous gift, which is believed to be the largest in the history of American theater. Geffen amassed his wealth in the music and film industries and has since become a major philanthropist for the arts.
The deans of the school wrote in a letter to the community: “The purpose of this extraordinary and unprecedented donation is to ensure that from this day forward, in perpetuity, full-time students in degree and certificate programs will receive 100% tuition remission, beginning with the 2021-2022 academic year. These programs are now, and will always be, ‘tuition free.’” The previous cost to attend totaled around $33,000.
By shifting to a tuition free graduate school, the entry barrier should be eliminated for low-income students and those especially concerned about accruing high student debt. Drama school dean James Bundy said, “We know, because people have told us, that there are potential applicants out there who think they could never afford graduate theater training at an Ivy League school,” (NYT).
He continued as reported in the Yale Daily News: “We’re confident that the message that the school is tuition-free will enable people to imagine themselves training here, as we can imagine them training, and that that will lead to an increasingly socioeconomically diverse student body that more truly represents the fabric of the nation and the world that we tell stories about.”
At this time, the David Geffen School of Drama is the second graduate program to go tuition-free at Yale, following the Yale School of Music in 2005. Shifts toward eliminating tuition in higher education reflect general feelings of U.S. adults as nearly two-thirds favor making tuition at public colleges free, Pew Research reports.
Part of President Joe Biden’s campaign platform included a promise to cancel all student debt, an idea that resonated well with many of his supporters. However, he has yet to make any significant strides toward achieving loan forgiveness. Forbes reports that Biden asked the U.S. Department of Education to review the concept and determine what changes may improve outcomes for borrowers.
New research from the Wharton Business School and the University of Chicago shows that student loan cancellation mostly benefits wealthy student loan borrowers, evidence that runs counterintuitive to the goal of loan forgiveness: helping lower income students.