Yale to Establish Two New Residential Colleges

President Richard C. Levin announced today the decision to move forward with the expansion of Yale College. In a letter to Yale alumni, faculty, students and staff, he discussed the University’s decision to increase the enrollment of Yale College by 15 percent by establishing two new residential colleges. Levin said he expected the new colleges to open in 2013. He noted that Yale College currently admits fewer than 10 percent of the more than 20,000 talented students who apply each year.

Dear Yale Alumni:

I am pleased to announce that the Yale Corporation has authorized increasing the enrollment of Yale College through the creation of two new residential colleges. This expansion will allow us to make an even greater contribution to society by preparing a larger number of talented and promising students of all backgrounds for leadership and service.

We will achieve this goal while ensuring that the quality of the Yale College educational and social experience will be as extraordinary as ever.

As I stated in February, when we shared the report of the Study Group to Consider New Residential Colleges, the last significant increase in the size of the Yale College student body came with the admission of women in 1969. By 1978, undergraduate enrollment first reached 5,200, and it has remained between 5,150 and 5,350 ever since. When women were first allowed to apply to Yale College, the number of applications soared immediately from 6,781 to 10,039, and the number fluctuated between 9,000 and 13,000 until 2001, when it began a steady rise to its current level of 22,500, spurred by dramatic improvements in financial aid, wider awareness of Yale’s accessibility, the extension of full need-based aid to international students, and a growing appreciation of the quality of a Yale College education. Along with the rise in applications has come an equally dramatic increase in the percentage of those admitted who accept Yale’s offer, from 53% when I became president, to over 70% in recent years.

The principal result of these changes in the admissions picture is that Yale College has become significantly more selective. From 1969 to 2000, the percentage of applicants admitted to Yale College ranged from 18% to 27%. It was above 20% as recently as 1999. Today, Yale College admits fewer than 10% of its applicants. Admissions officers agree that in each of the past several years we have denied admission to hundreds of applicants who would have been admitted ten years ago.

The mission of Yale College is to seek exceptionally promising students of all backgrounds from across the nation and around the world and to educate them, through mental discipline and social experience, to develop their intellectual, moral, civic and creative capacities. The aim of this education is the cultivation of citizens with a rich awareness of our heritage to lead and serve in every sphere of human activity. For three centuries, we have made this aspiration a reality, to the great benefit of the nation and, increasingly, the world. Today, we have a long queue of highly qualified applicants who collectively would allow Yale to make an even greater contribution to society if more could be educated here. In addition, since the late-1970s, when the undergraduate population ceased to grow, Yale is larger in virtually every dimension: faculty, staff, library and museum resources, and physical presence. We are well poised, therefore, to expand.

Our 12 existing residential colleges are admired because they create intimate communities and a superb environment for learning. The new colleges will emulate Yale’s proven model with a master, dean, fellows, and students forming a close-knit family, supported by the highest caliber public and private spaces for living and study. With an anticipated opening in 2013, these colleges will allow us not only to increase the undergraduate student body by about 15 percent, but also to alleviate crowding throughout the residential college system. We expect to reduce the population of the existing colleges by approximately 140 students and largely eliminate the need for annex housing.

Our goal is that students in every residential college, old and new, will have an even more robust and enlivening experience as a result of this expansion. Thus, we are adding facilities in the vicinity of the new colleges that support academics and student life, including classroom space, a student café, exercise facilities, a theater, and more. We are also expanding the faculty to sustain our favorable ratio of students to teachers, particularly in highly subscribed majors, and we are growing our system of academic advising. New resources will augment curricular development, student research, study abroad, and the whole range of extracurricular activities so important to a Yale education.

The new colleges will be built in a triangle just north of the Grove Street Cemetery bounded by Prospect, Canal, and Sachem Streets, creating a new sense of the geography of our campus by enlarging the footprint of Yale College. I believe that the presence of undergraduate residences north of Grove Street will alter the perception that Science Hill is “too far away” from the “center” of campus. In fact, the site proposed for the new colleges is only three blocks north of Elm Street, which divides the Old Campus and the Cross Campus. As the Study Group Report indicates, the new colleges have the potential of making the whole campus seem smaller, more effectively linking Science Hill with the historic “center” through the proper treatment of Prospect Street, the creation of appropriate “stepping stones” along the way, and the development of facilities for student activities at, near, and beyond the site of the new colleges.

To support the expansion of Yale College, the Corporation has authorized an increase in the goal of the Yale Tomorrow fundraising campaign from $3 billion to $3.5 billion. I am delighted to announce that, thanks to generous commitments from a handful of leadership donors, we have already secured $140 million in gifts and pledges for this purpose.

Almost 80 years ago, Edward H. Harkness, B.A. 1897, gave the funds to create Yale’s residential college system. He saw the residential colleges as a way to sustain the collegiate spirit in a school that was fast becoming a university. Since then, Yale College has grown in ways that Harkness never predicted. The student body has doubled, women have been enrolled, and young people have been welcomed from more than 100 nations. Remarkably, the members of this vast and vibrant enterprise still consider themselves part of a family. This is Harkness’s great legacy, and one that we will preserve in a new era of expansion. I am grateful for the outstanding work of the Study Group for providing us with wise counsel on how to achieve this objective.

Sincerely yours,

Richard C. Levin

New Residential Colleges web site
Yale Tomorrow
PDF: Report of the Study Group to Consider New Residential Colleges

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Media Contact

Tom Conroy: tom.conroy@yale.edu, 203-432-1345