The billionaire founders of real estate company SOHO China have created a $100 million fund in partnership with the SOHO China Foundation to send underprivileged Chinese students to elite universities around the world, the Wall Street Journal reports.
SOHO China CEO Zhang Xin and her husband, board chair Pan Shiyi, launched the initiative with a $15 million gift to Harvard University to fund undergraduate scholarships. Zhang told the Journal that many top-tier American colleges recruit mainland Chinese students from wealthy families who already are attending high schools in the U.S., while many bright students from poorer families who are studying in China hesitate to apply.
The couple is looking to set up similar endowments with colleges in the U.S. and elsewhere. While Harvard and a number of other elite schools offer foreign students substantial levels of financial aid, many schools are less generous with international applicants.
Zhang, who worked in a Hong Kong factory before receiving scholarships to study at the University of Sussex and Cambridge University, became an investment banker at Goldman Sachs and founded SOHO China in 1995. Pan grew up in an impoverished region of western China. Today, their combined wealth is estimated at some $3.6 billion, according to the Shanghai-based research firm Hurun Report, while their foundation supports various education initiatives, from building schools in rural areas to funding a training program for teachers and principals.
"Getting the best education should not only be for those who have the means," Zhang told the Journal. "It should be for those with the talent."