If Yale goes ahead with the proposed addition of two new residential colleges, the increase in the size of the student body and the physical isolation of the new colleges could prompt a larger percentage of students to study abroad during the academic year.
With more slots in each class available for international students and increased opportunities for student exchanges with other countries, the expansion may boost Yale’s historically low percentage of students who study abroad, Associate Dean for International Affairs Jane Edwards said. But administrators stress that the effect of the growth is hard to predict.
Several students interviewed said they think the placement of colleges Nos. 13 and 14 behind the Grove Street Cemetery on Prospect Street — in an area cut off from the rest of central campus — may create a feeling of isolation that could prompt more sophomores and juniors in those colleges to travel abroad. But University President Richard Levin said he does not expect the location of the new colleges to affect students’ stances on studying abroad.
Edwards said she hopes that if the number of students admitted in each class increases, the admissions office will have more flexibility to admit additional international students — who might convince their peers of the advantages of cultural immersion — and more risk-takers, who might be more likely to sign up for a study abroad program.
“The changes in institutional culture might recalibrate the attitude toward study abroad,” Edwards said. “This could accelerate the move toward students studying abroad.”
Yale could easily support up to three times as many students studying abroad as it currently does, Edwards said. Yale students are well positioned to gain acceptance into competitive study abroad programs, and the Office of International Education and Fellowship Programs is equipped to advise additional students, she said.
IEFP Director Barbara Rowe, who oversees administration of fellowships and study-abroad programs, referred comment to Edwards.
A smaller percentage of Yale undergraduates study abroad than at some peer institutions, according to a report released by the Institute of International Education last month. For the 2005-’06 school year, Yale gave academic credit to 361 students for study abroad, or 6.8 percent of undergraduates.
At Dartmouth College, 627 undergraduates, or 15.3 percent, study abroad, according to the report. But at Harvard and Princeton universities, similar percentages of students study abroad — 7.7 and 7.1 percent of undergraduates in 2005-’06, respectively, the report says.
These numbers include students who received credit for their academic studies over the summer or during the academic year.
An expansion could also contribute to an increased international presence on campus by allowing Yale to coordinate student exchanges, in which a student from another university attends Yale while a Yale student takes his or her place, Edwards said.
Yale currently does not permit exchanges, but if the number of undergraduates were to increase, the administration might consider permitting a small number of exchanges each semester, Edwards said.
But Dean of Undergraduate Admissions Jeff Brenzel said he could not predict how admissions priorities might change several years down the road.
“I can only say that discussions of how the mix of students might change with the opening of new colleges have not really begun, so naturally I cannot speculate about how they will conclude,” Brenzel said in an e-mail.
As a result of the proposed colleges’ separation from the rest of campus, some current undergraduates have also speculated that students in the new colleges might travel abroad in greater numbers, upping the overall percentage of Yale College students who study abroad.
Many students in those colleges might feel disconnected and decide either to transfer to another college or to study abroad for a year, Kirsten Ling ’10 said. This sentiment might increase the percentage of students studying abroad, but at a cost to campus life in New Haven, she said.
“I think living in the new colleges would take away from those students’ experiences at Yale,” Ling said.
But Levin said the new residential colleges would not detract from the close-knit feel of Yale’s campus.
“If we were to have additional residential colleges, we will still have that sense of intimacy and community that we have now,” he said. “I don’t think expansion by itself will give an additional impetus to overseas study. We’ve got to make overseas study attractive on its own terms.”
Most of the dozen students interviewed said a potential change in atmosphere on campus would not be enough to lure students overseas. While the overall campus atmosphere might become less tightly knit if the two new colleges are constructed, they said, it is the closeness of individual residential colleges that keeps students in New Haven.
“I doubt that if Yale became slightly less cozy you would say, ‘I want to go to such-and-such country because it’s so much cozier there,’ ” Leah Itagaki ’11 said. “I think you would be more isolated if anything in a foreign country, especially if there was a language barrier.”
Kyle Lecroy ’08 said the addition of two new colleges would internationalize the campus, but not by driving students to study abroad. Instead, he said, the expansion would contribute to an increasingly global mentality on campus that would itself encourage students to study in other countries.
The percentage of students studying abroad will only increase significantly if the entire culture of the University — which currently does not promote study abroad — changes to encourage Yalies to take advantage of the University’s study abroad resources, said Natalia Mann ’09, who spent last spring in Argentina.
This fall, 60 Yale students are studying abroad, Director of Study Abroad Karyn Jones said. So far, Jones said, 88 students are planning to study abroad this spring, but this number includes only students on the Year/Term Abroad Program and the Peking University-Yale University Joint Undergraduate Program.
The Yale Corporation, which is gathering in New Haven later this week, will vote in February on whether to proceed with the college expansion.