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Over 20 Percent of Harvard Undergrads Do Not Intend to Enroll in Fall 2020

Dean of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences Claudine Gay works alongside other administrators in University Hall.
Dean of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences Claudine Gay works alongside other administrators in University Hall. By Steve S. Li
By James S. Bikales and Kevin R. Chen, Crimson Staff Writers

More than 20 percent of Harvard College students do not intend to enroll this fall, according to data provided in a Thursday email from Dean of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences Claudine Gay to faculty and staff.

Roughly 5,231 undergraduates intend to enroll this fall, Gay wrote. Though figures vary slightly each year, Common Data Set filings from last year showed Harvard had 6,755 enrolled undergraduates.

340 freshmen deferred their enrollment to next year, representing more than 20 percent of the freshman class. Between 80 and 110 students take a gap year under typical circumstances, according to the College’s website.

In July, Harvard announced all undergraduate classes would be held virtually and invited first-year students to live in the dorms. Several weeks later, the College clarified that due to federal visa restrictions, international freshmen would not be able to come to campus.

Harvard also asked upperclassmen to seek approval to return, estimating that up to 40 percent of all undergraduates would be able to live in the dorms. The FAS now projects that only 25 percent of students will live on campus.

Of the 5,231 undergraduates who intend to enroll this fall, the majority — 3,599 students — will learn remotely, while 1,168 freshmen and 464 upperclassmen will live in residence, according to Gay.

“While our plan prepared us for as many as 40% of our typical undergraduate population learning in residence, we are currently anticipating a residential cohort size of closer to 25% based on the number of students who have accepted our invitation to learn on campus,” Gay wrote.

Gay noted that more than 1,000 students who face challenges learning remotely were invited back to campus. Harvard made spots available to students who lacked a sufficient computer, fast internet, a quiet place to work, or unhindered time to commit to coursework; those who faced challenging home and family circumstances or shelter and food insecurities; and those who require accessible learning resources or technology on campus.

Though FAS was able to project how many students intend to enroll, Gay wrote that it could not yet project how many students the Administrative Board will grant leaves of absence.

“The Administrative Board is reviewing requests for Leaves of Absence on a rolling basis and it would be premature to provide an estimate of expected leaves at this time,” she wrote.

Undergraduates can request a leave of absence until Dec. 4, though they may be charged a fee or portion of tuition after Sept. 9.

The College previously announced it would not change its rules regarding leaves of absence, but, under existing policy, unenrolled students are barred from participating in campus activities and using most Harvard resources.

—Staff writer James S. Bikales can be reached at Follow him on Twitter @jamepdx.

—Staff writer Kevin R. Chen can be reached at Follow him on Twitter @kchenx.

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