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Monday, February 18, 2008

Yale expansion plans seem certain

By Mary E. O’Leary
Register Topics Editor
NEW HAVEN
— The studies are wrapped up and the trustees are ready to hear details, but there doesn’t appear to be much doubt Yale University will add two residential colleges to its campus in the relatively near future.
A year ago, Yale President Richard C. Levin talked about his frustration with having to turn away so many qualified students seeking to get into the university after applications nearly doubled in the last decade.
An estimated 19,000 students applied for the class of 2011, of which just under 10 percent were accepted. Admission decisions for next year’s freshman class won’t be out until April, but 22,500 students applied this year for some 1,300 seats.
Adding two colleges could add some 600 students to the total undergraduate student body, which is now an estimated 5,200 students.
The planning documents, that will show the impact of an expanded student body, will go to the Yale Corporation at the end of next week, and most observers feel it will get a positive response. The next level of review would produce a detailed budget.
The site for the new colleges on Prospect Street between Canal and Sachem streets has been part of planning documents going back to 2000 and incorporates land already owned by the university, while new sites have been found for the university programs currently on the property.
The residential college system for undergraduates divides the student body into roughly 400 students per college, providing “both a sense of community akin to that of a small liberal arts college and access to the abundant resources of a great research university,” Levin said last year.
Building off Prospect Street would increase activity in the northern portion of the university near Science Hill and one study will talk about how to make students in the 13th and 14th residential colleges feel part of the main campus.
Ticking off reasons why adding more capacity at Yale was a good idea, Levin, in a letter to the Yale community last year, said it would create opportunities for more international students, as well as Americans.
Yale already also was making curriculum investments in the languages and sciences, which could be shared with a larger student population, Levin said, while he pointed to the “positive and perennial benefits” to the city’s economy.
Planners also were asked to look into how much of the new space would be used to relieve crowding at the 12 colleges, and how much would represent an enrollment boost.
New Haven officials have been informed since planning started, and Chief Administrative Office Robert Smuts Friday welcomed this kind of growth since it doesn’t take additional property off tax roles, but rather adds jobs and boosts the PILOT (payments in lieu of taxes) from the state.
The studies for review by the trustees will detail the kinds of increases needed in classroom space, library and information technology resources, as well as shuttle services, financial aid and health services to support a major growth spurt.
The last construction of residential colleges took place in the 1960s when Morse and Stiles were built off Broadway, York and Tower Parkway. Hostile city officials scrapped plans to build two colleges on Whitney Avenue and Temple streets in the mid-1970s.
Cooperation between Yale and the city has been exceptional under Levin and Mayor John DeStefano Jr.
“The expansion will strengthen the university and its presence and ultimately the economic growth of New Haven and the region,” DeStefano said.
Mary E. O’Leary can be reached at 789-5731 or moleary@nhregister.com

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