New colleges would help to ease current crowding

University officials are considering the addition of two to four new residential colleges, Yale President Richard Levin said Tuesday.

Levin said the University will not consider implementing this plan until the renovations of the existing 12 colleges are complete. The goal of the expansion would be to admit the qualified students Yale is unable to accept each year because of space constraints, he said.

“There’s so many outstanding students that we must turn down,” Levin said. “If Yale has a modest expansion, we would be fulfilling our mission even more than today.”

Levin said University officials have been considering the expansion “for some time.” If Yale built four new colleges that were the same size as the current 12, the University could increase the undergraduate body’s size by as many as 1,750 students — a 33 percent increase over Yale’s current undergraduate population.

About five years ago, Yale officials conducted a planning study to determine the possible locations for the new colleges, Levin said. He declined to say which particular sites the officials considered, but did say the locations were close to campus.

Yale Vice President for Finance and Administration John Pepper said he thought the expansion was inevitable, but its timing would be based on the University’s ability to find donors interested in the projects.

“My own opinion is it’s a question of when [the expansion will happen], not whether [it will happen],” Pepper said. “Of course, the key now will be getting funding for them.”

The University’s plan for new colleges could be a part of its next capital campaign, Pepper said.

Deputy Provost for Undergraduate and Graduate Programs Lloyd Suttle said he could not estimate the future costs of the project at this point in time.

“It will depend on when they build it and where they build it and how large they are,” Suttle said.

The proposal Levin discussed is not a new idea. In 1972 the University proposed building a 13th and 14th residential college across the street from Timothy Dwight College at the corner of Whitney Avenue and Grove Street. But New Haven city officials blocked the plan because they did not want the site to fall under the tax-exempt status of the University.

This site is currently the home of Whitney Grove Square, an office building partially owned by Yale.

New Haven City Planner Karen Gilvarg said the impact on the tax base has been a concern with each Yale expansion since the 1920s and would be the main reason for any city opposition to future residential college building.

“The main concern would be expansion onto land that currently pays taxes,” Gilvarg said.

Gilvarg said a master plan Yale developed in 2000 indicated that most expansion would occur on University parking lots and recommended that Yale not expand outside its current boundaries. If the state increased the percentage of money it compensates the city for taxes lost because of Yale’s non-profit status, the city would be more welcoming to the idea of expansion, Gilvarg said.

While increasing enrollment is the main goal of the project, Pepper said another would be to reduce crowding in the colleges. He said increasing the campus population would not change Yale’s character.

“It will just make this great educational life experience available to some more people,” Pepper said.

But Jessica Heyman ’07 said she disagrees. She said one of the reasons she chose Yale was its size, and she fears an increase would change the atmosphere of the campus.

“I’m wary of the idea of it getting so big that you feel lost,” Heyman said.

Harvard University has 13 “houses,” which function like Yale’s residential colleges, and Princeton University has begun planning to instate a residential college program of its own.

Branford and Saybrook, viewed from Harkness tower, might soon be two of 14 residential colleges.
Eleanor Sokolow
Branford and Saybrook, viewed from Harkness tower, might soon be two of 14 residential colleges.

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