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PHILADELPHIA — University President Christopher Eisgruber '83 urged alumni to consider expanding the size of the incoming freshman class at an alumni event here on Tuesday evening.

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Eisgruber in Philadelphi

“I’m proud of all the students who we have, but I know we can do better and do more by taking more students,” he said. Eisgruber described a University education as a gift, asking “Can we give that gift to more students this year?” The idea of expanding the student body was first floated at a meeting of the Council of the Princeton University community last September.

The number of applications grows each year, he said, noting that with over 27,000 applicants per year, the University is turning away more than 92 percent of them. He called this a source of stress for applicants and added that the goal of increasing socioeconomic diversity could be addressed by accepting more qualified students on the whole.

“One of the highest priorities for me going forward is to increase the socioeconomic diversity of our student body,” he said.

This would include not only increasing the number of Pell Grant-eligible students but also those in the middle class who do not necessarily meet the cutoff for federal grants. Although students who come from less privileged backgrounds may have a harder transition, research shows their chances of success will be higher at an elite institution such as the University than anywhere else, Eisgruber said.

Eisgruber opened up the evening’s discussion by explaining and advocating for the recommended changes to the grading policy, joking that even in locations as far as Seoul, the first question he is asked at town halls is regarding the grading policy.

“I think it’s a good report, and I do hope the faculty approves it,” he said.

He also mentioned that the recent changes to policy regarding sexual assault now put the University in compliance with the Office of Civil Rights’ interpretation of the Title IX code.

“The only acceptable number of sexual assaults on the college campus is zero,” he said.

Alumni, he said, should continue to support not only the University, but also state institutions that are now under the strain of coinciding budget cuts and rising costs.

“All of us who are Princeton alumni, who care about higher education and care about faculty at Princeton, ought to be caring as well about the faculty at these great state flagship institutions,” Eisgruber explained.

When asked about the most surprising aspect of becoming University President, Eisgruber remarked that his increased visibility was unexpected.

“Students are suddenly coming up to me and asking to take selfies with me, sometimes without even introducing themselves,” he said jokingly.

Eisgruber closed the town hall by laying out his mission for the upcoming years: a focus on service, access — which encompasses diversity — and excellence in resources and teaching.

The discussion was moderated by Mark Bernstein ’83, who writes for the Princeton Alumni Weekly. The event was hosted by the Princeton Club of Philadelphia and held in the National Constitution Center.

The event had a record attendance of over 500 alumni and family members.

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