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New residential colleges, long on the back burner, are finally a go

The long-delayed expansion of Yale College is finally a go, President Peter Salovey ’86PhD announced last week.

First broached publicly in 2006, the two new residential colleges—which will expand Yale’s undergraduate population by 800 students, or about 15 percent—were approved by the Yale Corporation in 2008, with plans for a September 2013 opening. But after the after the financial crash and corresponding drop in the university’s endowment, Yale moved the project to the fund-raising back burner.

Now, Yale has met the $500 million goal and will put the project out to bid, Salovey wrote in his June 2 “Notes From Woodbridge Hall” newsletter. “If we receive satisfactory proposals, we can begin construction this winter,” with an anticipated opening in the fall of 2017.

Both colleges are designed by the firm of Yale’s architecture dean, Robert A. M. Stern ’65MArch, in a neo-Gothic style intended to match most of the existing 12 residential colleges. They’ll occupy a triangle of land along Prospect Street, between the Grove Street Cemetery and Ingalls Rink.

Yale has not announced names for the colleges. Each will be named not for a donor, but for a “person of accomplishment with a significant connection to Yale,” then-president Rick Levin ’74PhD said in 2011. Our readers offered a bunch of suggestions back in 2008; you can read them here. So far, the university has referred to them as North College and South College.

The project represents the first expansion of Yale College since the addition of Morse and Stiles more than 40 years ago. Levin, as president, pitched it as a way of “doing right by the country.”

“We’ve grown in virtually every dimension in the last 40 years, except for the size of the undergraduate population,” Levin said in 2011. “We should be doing our part to educate more superb talented young people to serve the nation and, increasingly, the world.”

Yet the expansion was unpopular with undergraduates, at least during the planning phase, and donors may have shared some of the skepticism.

When Levin announced the project six years ago, $140 million had already been pledged. Three years ago, as the university trumpeted that it had exceeded its $3.5 billion “Yale Tomorrow” campaign goal by $380 million, the new colleges remained incompletely funded. Levin hoped then to begin construction in 2012 and finish in 2015. 

Even after Charles Johnson ’54 donated $250 million—half the total cost, and the biggest gift in Yale’s history—last year, it took time to close the remaining $80 million gap.

“Of course,” Salovey wrote in his newsletter last week, “there are still opportunities available to contribute,” including “many naming opportunities.”


The Yale Alumni Magazine is published by Yale Alumni Publications Inc., an alumni-based nonprofit that is not run by Yale University. Its content does not necessarily reflect the views of the university administration.

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