In an effort to attract more low-income students, Harvard University will no longer require families with incomes of less than $40,000 to contribute to their children’s tuition costs, Harvard President Lawrence H. Summers said Saturday.

Harvard, like Yale, has a need-blind admissions policy — the universities admit students regardless of their need for financial aid. Nearly two-thirds of Harvard undergraduates currently receive some form of financial aid. The goal of the new financial aid policy is to send a message to talented students from all economic backgrounds that they are welcome at Harvard, Summers said.

While University spokesman Tom Conroy said one of Yale’s major objectives is to attract low-income students and give them the financial resources they need to attend the University, he declined to say if Yale will change its financial aid policy to mirror Harvard’s.

The effort to ease the financial burdens facing low-income students is partially due to a recognition of the poor representation of these students at elite institutions around the nation, especially as tuitions continue to rise, university officials said.

“We certainly consciously have launched this new initiative to respond to what President Summers and others among us agrees is a growing gap between families who are able to afford education and those who aren’t,” Director of Financial Aid at Harvard College Sally Donahue said.

Harvard’s new policy is expected to benefit more than 1,000 families, a press release said. Currently families with incomes under $40,000 are required to pay $2,300. Under the new plan, families in this income bracket will not be asked to pay anything. Families with incomes between $40,001 and $60,000 will see an average tuition contribution reduction of $1,250.

“There is a broad perception that you have to be rich to come to Harvard,” Harvard Dean of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences William C. Kirby said in a press release. “That is simply not the case. We welcome applicants from all backgrounds, and we want people from all backgrounds to know that if they want to come to Harvard we will pay.”

The aid expansion will cost Harvard $2 million next year.

At Yale, financial aid is also a priority, Conroy said. According to Yale’s term bill, nearly 40 percent of undergraduates receive financial aid. In recent years, enhancements in financial aid policies have increased the average student aid grant and the total budget for financial aid, the term bill reported.

“It’s part of the goal of having a diverse student body that enhances the educational experience of all the students,” Conroy said.

Over the past year, Yale’s financial aid budget has been on the rise, Conroy said. In 2004-05, it is expected to increase by more than 10 percent from its current sum of more than $43 million.

“Yale does not want any admitted students not to matriculate because of financial need,” Conroy said.

Conroy said every institution has a different policy regarding financial aid. Factors such as how much a university rewards financial aid students for on-campus jobs must be considered when comparing financial aid packages of universities, he said.

Students at Harvard and Yale are expected to pay a share of the cost of their education. Many Yale students fulfill this required payment through campus employment opportunities, summer earnings and low-cost loans, the term bill reported.

The University’s term bill reported that at Yale a student’s financial aid grant is “the difference between the term bill and the combination of the contribution expected from the student and the student’s family.”

Harvard’s recent policy change follows increased scholarship aid over the past six years. This year, the university will spend nearly $80 million in financial aid awards.