The Ivy Coach Daily

April 19, 2023

The Decline in Jewish Students at Ivy League Schools

Jewish student enrollment numbers at Ivy League colleges have been declining in recent years (photo credit: Bryan Y.W. Shin).

Originally Published on October 15, 2018:

While we at Ivy Coach are outspoken about our belief that highly selective colleges, including the Ivy League colleges, unjustly discriminate against Asian American applicants in the admissions process, we bristle at the notion that these institutions discriminate through the use of quotas. No Ivy League school — including Harvard University, which is currently defending the legality of its admissions practices, and Affirmative Action, to America’s highest court — caps the number of Asian American admitted students at a specific figure.

Jewish Applicants to Ivy League Schools Previously Faced Quotas

Suggesting as much is just plain inaccurate. As such, on this week, in which thousands are solemnly participating in the March of the Living at Auschwitz-Birkenau to commemorate the 80th anniversary of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising, we assert that drawing such a comparison between the Asian American discrimination of today and the quotas Jewish applicants faced in the past does a disservice to the thousands of Jewish applicants to Ivy League schools of decades past whose admission was capped by quotas.

And while Jewish students no longer face quotas in the admissions process, it may surprise our readers to learn that Jewish student numbers at many of our nation’s elite universities, including the Ivy League schools, have declined significantly in recent years.

Jewish Population at Ivy League Schools Declining

As Shira Telushkin writes in a piece for Tablet on declining Jewish enrollment at the Ivy League schools, “In 2010, Penn was just under 20 percent Jewish, according to data collected by the Steinhardt Social Research Institute. By 2016, only 13 percent of the campus identified as Jewish by religion, a decrease of over 600 Jewish students. (When including students who claimed only ethnic or cultural affiliation, those numbers jump three percentage points.)”

Telushkin continues, “And Penn is far from the only Ivy League campus to note a decline. To take another example, throughout the 2000s, about 20 percent of incoming freshmen at Yale University identified as Jewish, according to data collected by the Yale University Chaplain’s Office. In the 2010s, that number was closer to 16 percent. For the past three years, The Harvard Crimson has reported that about 10 percent of incoming first-year students identified as Jewish, according to their own survey. For the incoming Harvard class of 2020, that number has dropped to 6 percent.”

Number of Jewish Students at the Ivy League Schools in 2022

Fast forward to 2022, and the size of the undergraduate student bodies at some Ivy League schools has declined even further, while some have rebounded ever so slightly: the University of Pennsylvania is up from 13% in 2016 to 17.57% in 2022. Meanwhile, Yale University’s Jewish undergraduate student body has slipped even further — to 12.24% as of 2022 from 20% in the 2010s. And Harvard’s has remained fairly steady.

Take a look at the Jewish percentage of the undergraduate student body, the total number of Jewish undergraduate students, and the total number of undergraduate students at each of the eight Ivy League schools as of 2022. The data stems from Hillel International.

2022 Ivy League Jewish Population

Ivy League InstitutionJewish Percentage of Undergraduate Student Body (2022)Total Number of Jewish Undergraduate Students (2022)Total Number of Undergraduate Students (2022)
Brown University23.86%1,7007,125
Columbia University22.33%1,5006,716
Cornell University21.21%2,50011,785
Dartmouth College8.82%4004,533
Harvard University9.87%7007,095
University of Pennsylvania17.57%1,7509,962
Princeton University11.46%6005,236
Yale University12.24%8006,535

Ivy League Schools Should Make Efforts to Address Declining Jewish Enrollment

This decline in Jewish students at these Ivy League institutions frightens us, particularly with anti-Semitism across America at the highest level recorded in over half a century (hey, just look at the comments section below). As such, we implore every university in America, including each of the eight Ivy League universities, to pay careful attention to these declining numbers and to make a concerted effort to reverse this discouraging trend. There is no reason the number of Jewish students should be plunging at the Ivy League schools.

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