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Harvard’s admit rate shrinks to 3.2 percent

College expands pool of students eligible for free tuition

Harvard offered admission to 1,954 students this year.Suzanne Kreiter/Globe Staff

Amid a record number of applications, Harvard University admitted just 3.2 percent of undergraduate applicants for the class of 2026; the university also said Thursday it would offer free tuition to a wider pool of lower- and middle-class families in the coming year.

The college offered admission to 1,954 students, including 1,214 students during the regular admission cycle and the rest through the early action process, according to a news release on its incoming class. Students admitted during the regular cycle have until May 2 to accept.

In an expansion of its effort to attract students from all socioeconomic backgrounds, the university this year raised the household income limits for those qualifying for free tuition from $65,000 to $75,000, even as it raised the sticker price for tuition, room, and board — the amount paid by families who don’t qualify for aid — to more than $76,000.

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“Harvard continues to make investments in our financial aid program to lessen the enormous pressures that low- and middle-income families face in sending their deserving students to College” said Claudine Gay, dean of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences. “Education is a source of opportunity, and we will support families seeking to provide the best possible opportunities for their children.”

Harvard College received 61,000 applications for this class, a record and an increase of nearly 7 percent from last year, according to the school.

The number of applications has risen dramatically in the past two years as the university, along with many others, made it optional for students to submit standardized test scores as part of their application. Two years ago, Harvard College received just 40,250 applications. Last year, decisions were delayed by about a week to give admissions officials more time to review the submissions.

Harvard recently announced that it will allow applicants through the class of 2030 to apply without submitting SAT or ACT scores. The waiving of standardized tests has helped increase the diversity of applicant pools at many schools.

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The new Harvard class is 60 percent students of color, down slightly from last year. It is 15.5 percent African American/Black (down from 18 percent last year), 27.8 percent as Asian American (nearly the same as last year), 12.6 percent as Latinx (down from 13.3 percent last year), 2.9 percent as Native American (up from 1.2 percent last year), and 0.8 percent as Native Hawaiian. Women account for more than half, 54.2 percent, of all those accepted.

“The Class of 2026 is truly remarkable,” said William R. Fitzsimmons, dean of admissions and financial aid, in a press release from the university. “Beyond their academic and extracurricular accomplishments noted in their applications are the many contributions they made to their families, schools, and communities during a time of pandemic and economic challenge.”

Tuition at Harvard is set to rise next year by 3 percent to $76,763. The university estimated that 55 percent of the new undergraduate class will receive need-based grants; those families will pay an average of $12,700 annually.

Nearly a quarter of students at Harvard College come from families with incomes under $75,000, the university said. Under the updated financial aid policy, those students will not have to pay tuition, room, board, or any fees.

Since 2005, when the university pledged to do more to support lower- and middle-class undergraduate students, the university has increased its financial aid budget from $80 to $235 million, the university said.

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In addition, all first-year students from families with incomes below $75,000 will be eligible to receive the $2,000 one-time grant that the university awards needy students to help with move-in costs.

“We know that financial aid makes the most fundamental difference for applicants and their families,” said Jake Kaufmann, Griffin director of financial aid, in the press release. “In increasing the no-contribution level, Harvard is continuing its efforts to open doors to excellent students from around the world.”

During the pandemic, Harvard eliminated the requirement that students who receive financial aid work during the summer, a provision it said it will continue, requiring work-study only during the semester.

More about the class of 2026:

— 20.5 percent qualified for Pell grants, meaning they come from low-income backgrounds

— 20.3 percent are the first generation in their family to graduate from a four-year college

— 18 students are veterans

— Students come from all 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, and 98 countries