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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  • Jamarcus Smart says:

    Why should we be concerned that Jewish enrollment is declining at Ivy League Universities when the group is still VASTLY OVERREPRESENTED at these institutions?? Penn, my alma mater, has a 17.5% undergraduate enrollment from a group representing 2% of the national population. How are Jewish students the victims in such a situation?? 🤔🤔 Even more confusing is the statement that Ivy League Universities should “pay careful attention to these declining numbers and to make a concerted effort to reverse this discouraging trend”. Are you saying you want to enshrine this overrepresentation? What percentage of Jewish students do you believe is too low? Lastly, the reference to anti semitism in pushing this non controversy is shameful. Do Better!!!!

    • Seth Halpern says:

      I suspect that the decline in Jewish enrollment is partly related to the cultural change in the Jewish Community. The number of modestly observant or nonobservant Jews, who once comprised the bulk of Jewish Ivy League applicants, has drastically fallen in recent decades while that of Orthodox and particularly ultra Orthodox Jews has risen. The observant are less obsessed with selective college admissions while the ultras frequently disdain higher education altogether and are unqualified for acceptance to universities, let alone rigorous ones.

      I doubt the search for racial “diversity” by many admissions offices has been particularly helpful to Jews either, nor has the increasing devaluation of traditional measures of high school academic achievement. (Asian-Americans have been prejudiced by this too.) But I am skeptical that it explains the degree of recent decline.

      I have observant (Jewish) relatives for whom getting into the right college was simply not the same priority it was for their secular counterparts of an earlier generation, for whom acceptance by the American social order (to which elite colleges were the pathway) was more important than religious commitment.

      • Ella says:

        I agree with you entirely. I want to add that Jewish population as a whole is on the decline due to rising intermarriage and deepening denominational and political rifts. Perhaps also now that antisemitism is on the rise from the left and even more pronounced at universities, it’s possible young Jewish people are distancing themselves from this identity – both culturally and religiously – in order to maintain alignment with left ideology.

  • Steve says:

    The percent of students admitted to any Institution should not be equal to the percent one group or another represents in the society at large . In a true meritocracy the positions available should be given to the most deserving . No one should be denied a position because of Race, Religion or Ethnicity. Quotas were deemed unconstitutional many years ago.

    • Ella says:

      Legal discrimination is absolutely disdainful and anyone who supports this bigotry is as deplorable as the practice is.

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