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Yale Plans for Biggest Expansion in Decades


 Yale University is moving forward with plans to build two residential colleges, an expansion that could create the largest increase in the student body since the Ivy League college began admitting women in 1969.

Yale President Richard Levin sent a statement to faculty and students this week citing the benefits of the proposal after a study group completed a one-year evaluation.

He said he will suggest at a board meeting this week that officials develop a budget and a fundraising plan to seek gifts to help pay for the expansion before he seeks final approval of the project in June from the university’s board of trustees.

“I believe that it is time to use our augmented resources to prepare a larger number of the most talented and promising students of all backgrounds for leadership and service,” Levin wrote.

Yale’s endowment has grown rapidly in recent years and is now more than $22 billion.

The new colleges would allow Yale to ease crowding and increase its undergraduate enrollment to about 6,000 students, up 12 to 13 percent from 5,300. Faculty would be added, Levin said.

Yale admits fewer than 10 percent of its applicants, down from a traditional admission rate of 18 to 27 percent from 1969 through 2000, Levin said. Hundreds of applicants are denied each year who would have been admitted in the past, he said, though he said he did not plan to change Yale’s admissions practices.

Yale has 12 residential colleges, a system designed to give students a small college experience within a larger university. The last expansion of the colleges occurred in the 1960s.

Levin promised to address student concerns about the project.

“I am well aware that despite strong support from faculty and alumni, many students remain concerned that new colleges will inevitably diminish the intimacy and quality of the Yale experience,” he wrote. “By creating two new communities of roughly 400 students, intimacy can be preserved.”

Some students also are worried that the new colleges, which would be built north of the Grove Street Cemetery bounded by Prospect, Canal and Sachem streets, would be too far from the historic center of campus, which is less than a mile away. Levin promised better shuttle bus service, enhanced security and other measures to tie the new colleges to the existing campus.

Expanding colleges have proven controversial in some cities.

In New York, Columbia University is seeking to expand into Harlem against a backdrop of protests from residents who say the Ivy League school’s ambitious project would destroy their working-class, minority neighborhood. Columbia’s $7 billion plan calls for razing much of an old manufacturing neighborhood.

But New Haven officials support Yale’s expansion, according to Levin. He says a larger student enrollment would help the city’s economy.

A telephone message was left Wednesday for New Haven Mayor John DeStefano.

The buildings would be about 235,000 square feet each. Yale hopes to begin construction in 2011 and open the new colleges to students in 2013.

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