March 30, 2009 / 10:02 PM / 10 years ago

Getting into Harvard even tougher in hard times

BOSTON (Reuters) - Getting into Harvard University got tougher this year as a record number of students applied to the school’s undergraduate program, many drawn by attractive financial aid offers during the recession.

Two Harvard University students meet in a dining area at the school in Cambridge, Massachusetts December 1, 2008. REUTERS/Brian Snyder

Harvard, the world’s richest university, said Monday 29,112 students applied for a spot in the Class of 2013. Of those, just 7 percent were accepted, the lowest in the history of the school and down from 7.9 percent last year.

Many U.S. universities are seeing a surge in enrollment as the baby-boomer generation’s kids graduate from high school. But unlike Ivy League peers Princeton, Yale and Stanford, Harvard has not significantly expanded the size of a freshman undergraduate class in more than two decades.

It has, however, rolled out a series of financial aid incentives in recent years.

The Class of 2013 will receive the most financial aid in Harvard history, with $147 million in scholarships alone. That is up 8 percent from last year.

Seventy percent of Harvard students receive some form of financial aid. The Harvard Financial Aid Initiative, which was announced in 2004, slashed the amount low-income students must pay to attend the oldest U.S. institute of higher learning.

Under the program, students from families earning less than $60,000 a year do not have to contribute to the cost of tuition, which together with room and board, reaches $47,000 a year.

Those from families earning between $60,000 and $80,000 also pay far less than they would have in previously.

About 25 percent of the Class of 2013 are eligible for the program.

Harvard also caps tuition at 10 percent of income from families earning up to $180,000.

The school said it would mail out acceptance letters on Tuesday. Nearly 18 percent of those accepted to the Class of 2013 are Asian, a record 10.9 percent are Latino and 10.8 percent are black.

Reporting by Jason Szep; Editing by Paul Simao

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