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Princeton University officials have announced plans to enlarge enrollment of undergraduates beginning in 2006, marking the university’s first major student body increase since it first admitted women in 1969.

Over the next four years, Princeton will admit an additional 125 students each year, reaching a goal of 500 more students by 2006, Princeton Associate Dean Hank Dobin ’74 said Monday. This 10 percent increase will bring the undergraduate enrollment from 4,600 to 5,100, Dobin said.

Princeton’s endowment in the spring of 2000 provided one incentive to increase student enrollment, Dobin said. The university had enough funds to increase the number of accepted students and therefore had an obligation to give as many deserving students as possible a Princeton education, he said.

“We have, just like Yale, a very large applicant pool,” Dobin said. “If it was within the means of the university to expand the student body we should do that. We felt we had the moral obligation and the financial resources.”

Princeton’s low student-to-faculty ratio also contributed to the trustees’ decision to expand, Dobin said.

Though there had not been an increase in student enrollment since the introduction of women in 1969, Princeton’s faculty continued to increase, creating an unprecedentedly low ratio, Dobin said.

“If the university wanted to hire more faculty, we had to bring the ratio back into balance,” Dobin said.

Before Princeton trustees fully committed to the proposal, Dobin said, they thought carefully about Princeton’s capacity to handle such an increase. The trustees were confident that an additional 500 students would not negatively alter Princeton’s environment or educational mission, Dobin said.

“Everyone had to agree that by expanding the student body, we wouldn’t be stretching ourselves too thin,” Dobin said. “I don’t think anyone on campus is concerned that anything is being jeopardized by this decision.”

Yale President Richard Levin said while Princeton’s increased student body will not have a big impact on the Ivy League as a whole, he does understand the difficulty a university has in turning away so many qualified applicants.

“This will make room for more students at an institution of high quality,” Levin said.

Yale officials have contemplated making a similar increase in enrollment but the University is deferring that decision until the renovation of all 12 residential colleges is complete, Levin said.

In an effort to accommodate the increased size of the student body, Princeton will introduce a new four-year residential college system. Currently, Princeton freshmen are randomly assigned to one of five residential colleges where they live for their freshman and sophomore years. As juniors and seniors, about 80 to 90 percent of upperclassmen join eating clubs, groups with which they eat and socialize, Dobin said.

With this new plan, Princeton will build a sixth residential college, Whitman College, and renovate Butler College and Mathey College, converting them into four-year colleges. Starting in 2006, upperclassmen will be able to choose to join eating clubs, to stay in their residential colleges for all four years, or a combination of the two.

“The eating clubs have a long tradition at the university, but they’re not for everybody,” Dobin said. “It’s always been a goal to create more flexibility.”

While the four-year residential colleges are similar to those at Yale, Levin said because the entire dormitory system will not be converted at Princeton, the benefits will not be as great as those of the system at Yale.

“I think we at Yale know from experience that [the residential college system] is a superior system,” Levin said. “I don’t think [Princeton] will deliver all the benefits without transforming the whole system.”

In addition to overhauling the dormitories, Princeton also plans to reevaluate other facilities and hire additional faculty members to accommodate the increase, Dobin said.

Dobin said it is too early to predict specific results of the increase. He said he thinks this new policy will have little to no effect on the number of applications Princeton receives.

“I am doubtful that it will have a real impact on the number of applicants,” Dobin said.

Princeton Undergraduate Student Government President Pettus Randall said student reaction to the planned increase has been positive.

“We think that expanding the number of students will increase opportunities in the classroom, opportunities extracurricularly and opportunities in athletics,” Randall said.

The proposal for Princeton’s enlargement was officially approved by trustees in April 2000.