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While things may change in the final analysis as admitted students consider and choose their future colleges, it seems the tide of increasing diversity has paused with regards to Harvard's Class of 2003.
According to information released by the Office of Admissions and Financial Aid, the number of minority students admitted to next year's entering class shows small declines in nearly all ethnic categories. The declines in most cases were less than 1 percent.
The number of Asian-American students admitted showed the greatest decline, falling from 18 percent last year to 16.4 percent this year, matching the previous low in the Class of 2000.
The percentage of black admitted students remained fairly stable at 9.8 percent, compared with 9.9 percent last year.
Mexican-American admits declined .4 percent to 3.1 percent, Hispanic-American students increased from 3.4 to 3.7 percent and the percentage of Puerto Rican students remained unchanged at 1.7.
American Indian admits rose to 1 percent of the total class versus .6 percent last year.
The declines in minority admissions come on the heels of a fiercely competitive admissions season. The University received 18,160 applications--just 23 shy of the record set by the Class of 2000, a year where minority admissions also took a downturn.
While acknowledging there is still more work to do in attracting minorities to the University, admissions office officials attributed this year's declines to annual fluctuation and not larger problems in with the University.
"Minority candidates competed very successfully with one of the most competitive pools in history," said Dean of Admissions of Financial Aid William R. Fitzsimmons '67. "We are always aware that we can do better."
To that end, the recruiting season for next year has already begun. "We're out already. We're already getting our search letters out--we don't take anything for granted," Fitzsimmons said, who was in Virginia last night talking to high school students and their parents.
Other Harvard administrators said they were unconcerned with this year's decrease in minority admissions.
"It probably proves the decision are individual, student by student rather than by group so I don't think the decline is significant," said Dean of Students Archie C. Epps III.
Epps said this year's declines were too small to affect the class as a whole.
Fitzsimmons' colleague Marlyn McGrath Lewis '70-'73, director of admissions, was similarly pleased with this year's results.
"We had a terrific year. We've been able to attract large and strong pools from minority groups," she said.
As with the record numbers of early action candidates and early action admits, Fitzsimmons continued to credit Harvard's increase in financial aid as a significant factor in this year's admissions game.
"The financial aid changes were critical," he said. "Without the changes, the progress we have made could have been brought to a grinding halt."
Both Lewis and Fitzsimmons said they are now turning their attention to encouraging the students admitted last week to take up residence in Harvard Yard in the fall.
"What really matters is who shows up in September. [We need to] make sure we attract the students we admitted," Lewis said.
Fitzsimmons said the stream of positive responses trickling in to Byerly Hall is encouraging.
"The final returns won't be in until May 1, but so far, so good," he said.
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