On Thursday, the Boston Globe revealed that for the first time ever the majority of students admitted to Harvard are nonwhite.
“To become leaders in our diverse society, students must have the ability to work with people from different backgrounds, life experiences and perspectives. Harvard remains committed to enrolling diverse classes of students,” a Harvard spokesperson said via email. “Harvard’s admissions process considers each applicant as a whole person, and we review many factors, consistent with the legal standards established by the U.S. Supreme Court.”
Though Harvard admitted 50.8% minority students to its class of 2021, that does not mean the class is guaranteed to be majority minority as not all students accepted their admission, though a record-high 84% of those admitted will attend in the fall.
In total, Harvard admitted 2,056 students out of the the 39,506 applicants. As the Harvard Gazette explained, the admitted class saw increases in the percentages of African-American and Asian-American students, as well as first-generation students and students from low-income and moderate-income families.
Of those admitted, women make up 49.2%, Asian-American students make up 22.2%, African-Americans at 14.6%, Latinos 11.6%, Native Americans at 1.9% and Native Hawaiians 0.5%. Those these numbers are fairly similar to those for the class of 2020, they do represent a small uptick in minority admissions.
And these numbers shouldn’t really come as a surprise for the school that literally set the bar for affirmative action with the “Harvard Plan.”
“This kind of program treats each applicant as an individual in the admissions process,” Justice Lewis F. Powell Jr. wrote about Harvard University in the principal opinion in the 1978 landmark case Regents of the University of California v. Bakke.
“The applicant who loses out on the last available seat to another candidate receiving a ‘plus’ on the basis of ethnic background will not have been foreclosed from all consideration for that seat simply because he was not the right color or had the wrong surname.”
As the Washington Post noted, Harvard’s admissions policy, which was implemented in the ‘70s as a way to combat the school’s once horrific diversity record, is consistently cited in cases regarding affirmative action. Moreover, the Post explained that Harvard’s diversity program is about more than race, but also includes geography, social class and other personal attributes.
William R. Fitzsimmons, dean of admissions and financial aid, credited much of the recent increase in diverse applicants to the Harvard Financial Aid Initiative, which was launched in 2005. “The different life experiences of our students add immeasurably to the academic and extracurricular life of the College,” he told the Harvard Gazette.
As for what all these newly admitted college students will study, Harvard revealed that 26.5% indicated they will enroll in social sciences, 19.3% in computer science and engineering, 19.2% in the biological sciences, 15.5% in the humanities, 7.2% in mathematics, 6.9% in the physical sciences and just 5.4% remain undecided.
The news comes just days after a New York Times report claimed the Justice Department was attempting to redirect funds from the civil rights division toward suing universities whose affirmative action admissions policies are deemed discriminatory toward white applicants.
The DOJ refuted the claim, saying it was instead investigating a complained made against the Ivy League school, which was filed by a coalition of 64 Asian-American associations.
“It’s the most prominent of the affirmative action cases, the one that’s galvanized the most debate and discussion,” Edward Blum, an anti–affirmative action lawyer, told BuzzFeed. “That lawsuit is specifically about Asian quotas — it has nothing to do with white students.”