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The History of Alumni Giving

Yale Law School was created and is sustained through private gifts. This tradition of philanthropy meant that as it acquired national prominence in the 20th Century, the Law School was able to recruit students and faculty of the first rank, unencumbered by pressing fiscal constraints. Its peer institutions, instead, balanced their books by enrolling larger and larger classes, thus forever distinguishing their educational mission.

For some time an endowment income has provided every year an amount greater than tuition, and the two together supply roughly 85% of the School’s operating costs. But most of the balance continues to come from alumni. Such reliance on annual giving is almost unheard-of, much less achieved, in the philanthropic world.

But it must be this way, for without such support, Yale Law School would be faced with three choices, all of them ruinous to its mission: vastly reducing its intellectual ambitions; drastically increasing class sizes; or, quite starkly, tripling tuition.

While expensive to produce, Yale Law School graduates represent an unequalled return on investment. They serve as leaders in every imaginable sector and enjoy satisfying professional lives. And so it is that gifts to the School produce both an immediate benefit – the balancing of a budget in a particular year – and over time an even more salutary effect. Though small in number, graduates of the Yale Law School produce heroic generosity, with each playing his or her part to help shape the path for tomorrow’s Yale Law School.

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