NEW HAVEN, Conn. (AP) _ The new president of Yale University said one of his top priorities will be a plan to build two new residential colleges, a project that represents the largest expansion in more than 50 years.

The two new colleges are the largest expansion at the Ivy League university since it began admitting women in 1969 and will allow the school to admit about 15 percent more students each year. The expansion will bring total undergraduate enrollment to about 6,100, up from 5,300.

Yale admits only a small fraction of applicants; the 1,360 members of the class of 2017 were chosen from a record applicant pool of 29,610.

“I think as a first priority I really want to get that project done,” Peter Salovey, who is being inaugurated Sunday, said in an interview with The Associated Press. “I’m very committed to enlarging our undergraduate college. I believe quite strongly that there are talented students very deserving of a Yale college education who aren’t getting in. There are many.”

The $500 million project received a boost this month with a $250 million gift from Charles B. Johnson, a 1954 graduate who retired last year as chairman of the board of Franklin Resources, parent company of Franklin Templeton Investments. Yale officials are hoping to start construction in February 2015 and complete the colleges by August 2017.

Yale has 12 existing residential colleges and last built new ones in 1961. The residential college system, more than 70 years old, is designed to give students a small college experience within a larger university.

Salovey said he wants to step up efforts to recruit top students from less affluent parts of the country, especially rural areas. He cited research from economists finding that many top students from poorer backgrounds don’t apply to colleges such as Yale.

“I’m very interested in reaching out into those communities and finding the very top students from them and giving them an opportunity to study at Yale,” Salovey said.

Economic development and creating jobs in Yale’s home city of New Haven is another priority, Salovey said. He said he will look for ways to encourage Yale graduates to remain in the city and start businesses, such as by potentially offering start-up funding and incubator space.

“I think that’s the next phase of our relationship with our host city,” he said.

Salovey has replaced Richard Levin, who stepped down after 20 years leading Yale.

“There’s no more thrilling and humbling honor that a faculty member at this university who is also an alumnus of this university could be given than being asked to serve as its president,” he said.

(© Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)


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