BOSTON Getting into Harvard University, one of America's most selective colleges, became even more difficult this year after a new financial aid offer prompted a record number of applications.
The Ivy League university said on Tuesday 1,948 students had been accepted for the new academic year starting in September autumn out of a record 27,462 who applied.
Harvard's admissions committee cut the acceptance rate to 7.1 percent from 9 percent last year, a record low at the 372-year-old university in Cambridge, Massachusetts, across the Charles River from Boston.
Applications began flooding late last year after Harvard, America's richest university, pledged to cut its tuition fees to make it more affordable for middle-class families.
Bolstered by its $35 billion endowment, Harvard announced it would pay as much as $120 million a year so that families earning up to $180,000 a year will have to spend only up to 10 percent of their annual incomes on tuition fees.
Students whose families earn less than $60,000 a year do not have to pay tuition to attend the school whose many famous graduates include former President John Kennedy, Nobel Peace prize winner and former Vice President Al Gore and the poet T.S. Eliot.
The fee cut from the current price of $47,215 for tuition, room and board and service fees will significantly reduce the cost of attending Harvard for many undergraduates.
Other elite educational institutions quickly followed Harvard's lead in offering new aid packages as tuition and fees at public and private U.S. colleges and universities rose by more than double the inflation rate last year, according to data from the nonprofit College Board.
The more generous packages elsewhere made it even harder to get into Harvard and the admissions committee sent out 110 fewer acceptances than last year.
"We are taking a conservative approach because of the current uncertainties in the college admissions world, and we will admit additional students from the waiting list as spaces become available," said William Fitzsimmons, Harvard's dean of admissions and financial aid.
Harvard, which appointed its first female president last year, said more than half the students admitted this year are women with 18.5 percent coming from Asian-American backgrounds and 11 percent from African-American backgrounds.
(Reporting by Svea Herbst-Bayliss, editing by Chris Wilson)