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Harvard Acceptance Rate Hits Record Low

New financial aid program spurs increase in applications and economic diversity, admissions office says

By Daniel J. T. Schuker, Crimson Staff Writer

Admission to Harvard College became more competitive than ever this year, as the school accepted a record-low 9.1 percent of applicants for the Class of 2009, according to figures released on Thursday.

Of the 22,276 who applied this year—already a record high for Harvard—2,074 were admitted to the Class of 2009.

Officials projected that the incoming freshman class will be the most economically diverse in Harvard’s history, crediting University President Lawrence H. Summers’ new Harvard Financial Aid Initiative (HFAI).

The initiative—announced in February 2004—eliminates the parental contribution to tuition for families earning less than $40,000 each year. It also lowers the financial contribution for parents who make between $40,000 and $60,000.

The Admissions Office stated in a press release that the program was responsible for both an increase in the economic diversity as well as the boost in the raw number of applicants.

Twenty-two percent more students in the prospective Class of 2009 will benefit from the program than in the current freshman class, according to the press release. The Admissions Office expects that a total of nearly 360 of this year’s admitted students will qualify for HFAI.

Harvard will also spend a record amount on financial aid for students next year, allocating $84.6 million for undergraduate scholarships. This marks a 56 percent increase over the past six years, according to the Admissions Office’s statement.

In addition, the average student aid package will approach $30,000, the press release stated. Full tuition for the 2005-2006 academic year will rise to $41,675, as Harvard announced last month.

“The underlying message is that this place is open to everybody,” Dean of Admissions and Financial Aid William R. Fitzsimmons ’67 said.

“The increase in the pool came from people in all kinds of backgrounds, rich and poor,” he added.

Harvard currently awards financial aid to two-thirds of its undergraduates in the form of scholarships, loans, and work-study jobs, according to the press release.

Notwithstanding the increased selectivity and socioeconomic diversity, the prospective Class of 2009 is statistically similar to the current freshman class in several respects, Fitzsimmons observed.

Geographic representation resembles that of last year’s admitted class, with students hailing from all over the United States and from 80 different countries.

The male-female ratio is about even, with 20 more men admitted than women. Last year, Harvard accepted—and later enrolled—a slightly greater number of females, a first in the school’s history.

The percentage of African-American students reached a record high of 10.5 percent, up from 10.3 percent last year. The number of Latinos, Native Americans, and Asian Americans only changed marginally from last year.

Fitzsimmons said that the applicants for the Class of 2009 were as competitive as in years past, adding that many highly qualified candidates had to be turned down.

“It’s always hard to get in...but it seemed unusually tough this year,” Fitzsimmons said. “We finally ended up having to take out a lot of people who were very good.”

Harvard’s 9.1 percent acceptance rate—a drop from last year’s rate of 10.3 percent—made Harvard more competitive than all of its rival schools this year.

Princeton admitted 10.9 percent of its applicants this year, while Stanford admitted just under 12 percent.

Yale admitted 9.7 percent of its applicants. Last year, Yale accepted 9.9 percent of applicants, proving more selective than Harvard.

Harvard notified most applicants of its admission decisions on Thursday evening via e-mail. All students were sent traditional notification letters as well.

Harvard plans to hold a Visiting Program for admitted students the weekend of April 29-30, during which prospective students will have the chance to gain an extended look at the college. The Admissions Office said in the statement that it will also reach out to accepted applicants in the next month through online chat rooms and message boards, regional gatherings of prospective classmates, and personal meetings with admissions officers.

Admitted students have until just after May 1 to accept or decline a place in Harvard’s Class of 2009.

—Staff writer Daniel J. T. Schuker can be reached at

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