The billionaire David Geffen is giving $150 million to Yale School of Drama, allowing one of the nation’s most prestigious programs to stop charging tuition.
The graduate school, which enrolls about 200 students in programs that include acting, design, directing and playwriting, announced the gift on Wednesday, and said it would rename itself the David Geffen School of Drama at Yale University.
The gift, Yale said, is the largest in the history of American theater.
The school said that, starting in August, it would eliminate tuition for all returning and future students in its masters, doctoral and certificate programs. Tuition at the school had been $32,800 per year.
The move should remove a barrier to entry for low-income students and those worried about incurring high student debt before entering an often low-paying field.
The drama school is home to the Yale Repertory Theater, and its graduates include Meryl Streep, Lynn Nottage and Lupita Nyong’o.
It will become the second program at Yale to eliminate tuition; in 2005 the Yale School of Music did so. There are a handful of other tuition-free graduate programs around the country, including N.Y.U.’s medical school.
Geffen, 78, made his fortune in the music and film businesses, and is currently worth about $10 billion, according to Forbes. He has become a major philanthropist with an interest in the arts, previously giving $150 million to the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, $100 million to Lincoln Center for the renovation of the concert hall where the New York Philharmonic performs and $100 million to the Museum of Modern Art.
Geffen once taught a seminar at Yale, in the late 1970s, about the music industry.
He has maintained a variety of connections to theater throughout his career: In the 1980s, he was among the producers of the original Off Broadway production of “Little Shop of Horrors,” and in the 1990s, he gave the founding gift for the Geffen Playhouse, a major theater in Los Angeles. Over the years he has been credited as a producer of nine Broadway shows, from “Dreamgirls” to the upcoming revival of “The Music Man.”