Harvard Could Increase Size of Student Body, FAS Dean Says

Harvard could expand its undergraduate enrollment and construct new Houses in Allston in the future, Faculty of Arts and Sciences Dean Michael D. Smith said in an interview Thursday.

Smith said administrators have been thinking about how to prepare for such a move, which would require scaling up relevant student services and increasing the size of the faculty to preserve Harvard’s student-faculty ratio. Currently, about 6,700 undergraduates are enrolled at the College.

In recent years, several of Harvard’s peer institutions—including Princeton, Yale, and Stanford—have committed to increasing the size of their undergraduate populations by constructing additional undergraduate housing. Princeton hopes to increase enrollment by about 125 students per class, Yale by about 200 students per class, and Stanford by 100.

“We certainly do think about [expanding]—not just because our peers are doing it, honestly, but because we do have lots of talented students that can come and be part of our Harvard community,” Smith said. “Allston is obviously a potential place to put another House—or two.”

Smith emphasized, however, that his focus is still on the current undergraduate population and that any such expansion would come as a “next step” after the renewal of the river Houses—which are currently a priority in Harvard’s historic $6.5 billion capital campaign. Last semester, Dunster House opened its doors after a 15-month long construction process, the first fully renovated House under the project. Administrators plan to renovate Winthrop House next academic year, followed by Lowell House starting in the summer of 2017.


Smith said a formal timeline for the potential expansion of the student body has yet to be established.

This is not the first time that administrators have considered growing the size of the undergraduate population. In 2003, then-University President Lawrence H. Summers discussed the possibility of constructing new undergraduate housing in Allston in order to grow the size of Harvard’s undergraduate body. One proposal floated then would have replaced the three Houses in the Radcliffe Quad—Cabot, Currier, and Pforzheimer—with three Houses in Allston.

In 2020, Harvard plans to relocate two-thirds of the faculty of the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences to a new Allston campus, which will feature a $1 billion science and engineering complex approved last month.

This year, Harvard accepted a record-low 5.2 percent of undergraduate applicants to the Class of 2020, following a general trend of declining admissions rates at the College. Over the past several years, Harvard has accepted a relatively constant number of undergraduate applicants each admissions cycle, while the number of applicants has steadily risen—from about 34,000 applicants five years ago to over 39,000 this year. Eighty percent of students accepted to the Class of 2020 plan to matriculate in the fall.

—Melissa C. Rodman contributed reporting to this story.

—Staff writer Luca F. Schroeder can be reached at Follow him on Twitter @lucaschroeder.

–Staff writer Derek G. Xiao can be reached at Follow him on Twitter @derekgxiao.

—Staff writer Brian P. Yu can be reached at Follow him on Twitter @brianyu28.