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Tilghman featured in Wall Street Journal interview

Princeton President Shirley M. Tilghman was featured July 17 in The Wall Street Journal in an interview addressing the expansion of the undergraduate student body and recently adopted family-friendly initiatives, among many issues facing the University.

The article, part of the Journal's series of "Boss Talk" columns, discussed Princeton's plans to increase the size of its undergraduate student body by 500 students, or 11 percent, by 2012. Princeton is revamping its residential college system to accommodate the new undergraduates and to provide a broader range of academic and social options for all students.

"We should be educating as many students as we can, consistent with the nature of education that we have always espoused, which is very close interaction between the students and faculty," Tilghman told the Journal. "So we couldn't suddenly open the floodgates and have 40,000 students. But we were absolutely persuaded we were in a position to accommodate 11 percent more. We are turning away students who we know would be absolutely stellar Princeton students, and it's just because of our lack of spaces in the class."

While also growing in size, Princeton's student body has become more economically diverse over the past several years. The University has enhanced its financial aid program in several ways to attract more students from lower- and middle-income families -- most notably by replacing loans with grants for all students who qualify for aid to eliminate the burden of graduating with significant debt. In Princeton's incoming freshman class of 2010, 54 percent of students are receiving financial aid -- compared to 38 percent in the class of 2001, the last class admitted before Princeton began revamping its financial aid practices.

"… I think the greatest challenge for all of us is to look for the lower-income student who has not excelled at the same level in terms of standardized tests but has been able to excel despite all the things that were put in his path," Tilghman said in the interview.

The article also noted recent changes to make Princeton a more family-friendly work environment, one of Tilghman's priorities as president. Among other initiatives, the University last year instituted a policy that automatically grants male and female faculty extra time to pursue tenure after having a child, rather than requiring them to request an extension.

"We recently adapted that policy because we discovered that people were not taking advantage of the policy partly for fear that they would be perceived as asking for a benefit," Tilghman said. "So now we automatically extend the tenure clock. You don't ask for it. You get it."

The article can be found on The Wall Street Journal's Web site (subscription required).

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