HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) – Yale University trustees have approved plans for the Ivy League school’s largest expansion in decades, Yale President Richard Levin announced Saturday.

Levin said the Yale Corporation authorized creating two new residential colleges that will increase student enrollment by 15 percent to nearly 7,000. It will be the New Haven university’s largest expansion since it began admitting women in 1969.

“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,” Levin wrote in a letter to Yale alumni, faculty, students and staff.

He noted that Yale now only admits fewer than 10 percent of the more than 20,000 students who apply each year.

The new colleges are expected to open in 2013. Yale now has 12 residential colleges in a system designed to give students a small college experience within a larger university.

Yale’s undergraduate enrollment first reached 5,200 in 1978, and it has remained between 5,150 and 5,350 ever since, Levin said.

After women were admitted, applications jumped from 6,781 to more than 10,000 each year and ranged from 9,000 to 13,000 annually until 2001, when a steady rise to the current 22,500 began.

Levin said Yale is well-positioned for an expansion.

“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,” he wrote.

The expansion plan also calls for reducing the population of the existing residential colleges by about 140 students to eliminate crowding, and adding facilities near the new colleges including classroom space, a student cafe, exercise areas and a theater.

Yale will also expand the number of faculty positions, Levin said.

Some students have expressed concern that the new colleges, which would be built north of the Grove Street Cemetery bounded by Prospect, Canal and Sachem streets, would be too far from the historic center of campus, which is less than a mile away. Levin has promised better shuttle bus service, enhanced security and other measures to tie the new colleges to the existing campus.

Trustees authorized increasing the goal of the Yale Tomorrow fundraising campaign from $3 billion to $3.5 billion to help pay for the expansion. Levin said the university has already secured $140 million in gifts and pledges for the project.

Yale also has a more than $22 billion endowment.

Levin appointed a study group in February 2007 to look into adding two more residential colleges.

The new buildings would be about 235,000 square feet each. Yale hopes to begin construction in 2011.

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