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University President Christopher Eisgruber ’83 suggested that the University may consider either building a seventh residential college or expanding Forbes College in order to handle a potential increase of the student body.
Eisgruber floated the idea of expanding the student body at the last Council of the Princeton University Community on Sept. 30.
“The most obvious way you could [expand] would be to add an additional residential college, but there are also other ways that would be more modest,” Eisgruber said in an interview Wednesday morning.
As Forbes is currently smaller than the other colleges and has some vacant space on its northern side, he said the University may consider renovating or replacing the Forbes Annex or Addition to add more beds.
Eisgruber noted that he intended his remarks to re-open the question of expansion among the University community, rather than to lay it down as a goal.
“I really do mean to put the question [of expansion] on the table, rather than presuppose an answer to it,” he said. “There’s no way we could ever get to expansion without having a serious trustee-level committee in a public process.”
Seriously considering the possibility of expansion, Eisgruber explained, would require forming a committee to gather impressions about the benefits and impacts of a larger student body.
Expansion has been on the University’s horizon for years. The campus plan published in 2008 mentioned the possibility of adding a seventh residential college and identified three possible sites for its location. One was the area north of Forbes College, between the college and College Road.
Another possible site mentioned in the plan is the MacMillan building, which is located south of Baker Rink along Elm Drive. It currently houses the University’s Department of Facilities and Office of Design and Construction, as well as the University’s Energy Management Center. The plan notes that this site “is constrained and may result in an unacceptably dense layout.”
A third site considered in the plan is along Ivy Lane, which becomes Western Way before its intersection with FitzRandolph Road. The proposed site includes the University’s Computing Center and would be back-to-back with Charter Club. The plan notes that the selection of this site “would contribute to the goal of uniting the campus across the two sides of Washington Road.”
In 2009, former University President Shirley Tilghman said she thought a seventh residential college would be added at some point in the next 25 years.
The last major expansion of the size of the student body, which gradually increased the annual class size from 1,200 to 1,300 beginning in 2005 and ending in the 2012-2013 school year, was based on a report by the Wythes Committee — charged by the University’s Board of Trustees with evaluating long-term strategic issues facing the University — in 2000. In order to accommodate the larger class size, the University constructed Whitman College, the sixth residential college.
Yale recently announced plans to build two additional residential colleges, part of an attempt to increase enrollment by 15 percent. The total $330 million project got off the ground with a $250 million alumni donation.
Eisgruber has said he’s certain Princeton’s student body will expand eventually but has no timetable in mind for it. Expansion, he said, is “one of the most important questions the University needs to be thinking about.”