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Editorials

To the Class of 2027: What the Numbers Don’t Tell You

By Shanivi Srikonda
By The Crimson Editorial Board
This staff editorial solely represents the majority view of The Crimson Editorial Board. It is the product of discussions at regular Editorial Board meetings. In order to ensure the impartiality of our journalism, Crimson editors who choose to opine and vote at these meetings are not involved in the reporting of articles on similar topics.

To the Class of 2027: Welcome to Harvard College!

With every new class comes a beautiful mosaic of perspectives, dreams, and possibilities that illuminates the Harvard community. As the old cliché goes, it’s the people who make Harvard a truly transformative place — and we can’t wait to meet you, the newest additions to our colorful campus, at Visitas.

As you excitedly explore the different facets of the community that you may soon call home, one of the first things you will likely notice are the numbers: the percentage of the Class of 2027 admitted students hailing from each region of the country and around the world, the racial composition of the admitted class, and the proportion of students intending to pursue various fields of study.

While these demographic breakdowns from the Admissions Office paint a partial picture of our campus’s vibrant future, there is one glaring gap in the data that distorts our view of diversity at the College: the lack of descriptors related to socioeconomic class.

Why was this statistic — vital to understanding the composition of the Harvard undergraduate population — conspicuously omitted from the school’s press releases yet again?

The answer is obvious: For the College’s entire history, socioeconomic diversity at Harvard has been abjectly non-existent. Of course, given its genesis from pockets of wealth and political influence, it’s no surprise that Harvard was built to educate the elite. What is quite galling is that it still does.

According to a study by Harvard’s own Economics professor Raj Chetty, at the turn of the millennium, there were 23 times as many high-income students enrolled at Harvard as low-income students. Much more recent data from The Crimson’s first-year survey for the Class of 2025 indicates that 13.9 percent of the current sophomore cohort reportedly hails from households earning less than $40,000 — a bracket that, by contrast, accounts for 29 percent of the American population.

Why would the Admissions Office admit this reality, or even publish the statistics necessary to corroborate the numbers, when Harvard prides itself on being accessible to low income students?

The lack of socioeconomic diversity data is particularly insidious because many students can go through Harvard never noticing this homogeneity — never truly comprehending how their cohort of peers utterly fails to be representative of the rest of the country and the world. Class is not always visible on the surface, making the lack of public statistics on socioeconomic demographics especially dangerous at an institution that touts its ability to cultivate future citizen-leaders.

Given the value of a diverse student body to provide more perspectives and lived experiences to campus discourse, admitting more low-income students must be a top priority for Harvard. Carefully weighing socioeconomic factors would also help correct for the persistent inequity that plagues Harvard’s admissions process, in which wealthy, privileged applicants routinely perform better on metrics weighed by college admissions officers.

It does not escape us that Harvard just released a triumphant announcement about financial aid expansion, wherein families making under $85,000 annually (up from $75,000) will not be required to contribute to their student’s education or living expenses at Harvard. This accomplishment is penny-sized given that it fails to get at the root of the problem — a systemic shortage of low-income admits.

Already, Harvard is a less expensive option than a public university for more than ninety percent of American families. The problem, then, is not with the amount of financial aid being offered at Harvard; it’s the dearth of students this aid is being spent upon.

Harvard’s socioeconomic diversity problem begins even before admissions decisions occur. Most qualified low-income students don’t apply to selective colleges despite the fact that those who do enroll have very high graduation rates. Given that research shows that targeted outreach to these high-achieving, low-income students is both cost-effective and impactful, Harvard should prioritize recruiting low-income students, increase outreach to non-elite high schools and community colleges, and expand high school summer programs for prospective low-income students.

Harvard should also publish data on the socioeconomic breakdown of admitted students in the same way it does for racial and geographic statistics. Without these statistics, students are hard-pressed to hold Harvard accountable for its commitment to fostering diversity of all kinds.

Harvard hides other demographic disparities, too, by its refusal to publish more granular details about its admitted students. Descendants of slavery in America, or Generational African Americans, are commonly perceived to be underrepresented on campus. Harvard should provide additional data on ethnic breakdowns within broader racial categories to highlight the disparities in representation that exist within groups. By refusing to collect or publicly share these more detailed statistics, Harvard is choosing to ignore inequalities within its blanket celebration of “diversity” and risk exacerbating such divides even further.

The Harvard Class of 2027 will probably go down in history: It may be the product of the last admissions cycle wherein Harvard employs race-conscious admissions in its current form. After this summer, it will likely be harder — perhaps significantly harder — for American colleges and universities to enroll diverse student bodies. Yet we refuse to accept backsliding from where we are today in terms of our beautiful, technicolor-brilliant student body, and we can (and should!) continue to push Harvard for even more diversity across multiple forms.

So to the Class of 2027: Congratulations, and welcome to your new community. As you excel in your studies, forge ahead in new disciplines, and join the ranks of those educated at America’s oldest institution of higher education, never neglect to question the numbers that surround you. With an attitude like that, you might just bring about a more vibrant, equitable world.

This staff editorial solely represents the majority view of The Crimson Editorial Board. It is the product of discussions at regular Editorial Board meetings. In order to ensure the impartiality of our journalism, Crimson editors who choose to opine and vote at these meetings are not involved in the reporting of articles on similar topics.

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