Harvard, Princeton Undergraduate Enrollment Drops on Covid Risk

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Harvard and Princeton universities saw enrollment slide this semester as the Covid-19 pandemic spurred some students to stay away.

Harvard College’s enrollment declined almost 20% to 5,382 undergrads in the fall semester, spokeswoman Rachael Dane said Tuesday. Enrollment was 6,716 as of Oct. 15, 2019. The freshman class is about 14% smaller, as more than 200 accepted students notified Harvard that they intend to postpone their attendance to the next academic year.

All instruction at Harvard College is remote for the 2020-2021 academic year. Freshmen and other students approved to be there based on academic needs are the only undergraduates living on the Cambridge, Massachusetts, campus. Sophomores, juniors or seniors could choose to enroll for the spring semester.

U.S. colleges and universities are trying to ensure the health and safety of students and employees amid the pandemic. Administrators have been concerned that fewer students would want to enroll this term, with mask wearing, virus testing and limited interactions for those colleges that have in-person classes. Many schools are going all or mostly virtual, while others have sent students home after coronavirus outbreaks.

At Princeton, declines were led by those seeking deferrals and leaves. The Ivy League school in New Jersey had 4,703 undergraduates enrolled for the current semester, compared with 5,328 students in fall 2019, or a 12% decline from Oct. 15 of last year.

Princeton approved twice as many requests to defer first-year enrollment as it usually gives, Jill Dolan, dean of the college, said in a letter last month. In addition, about 500 sophomores, juniors and seniors were granted leaves of absence.

©2020 Bloomberg L.P.

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