Posted Friday Dec. 14 Yale accepted 18.1 percent of its early action applicants for the Class of 2012, a decrease of 1.6 percent from last year, Dean of Undergraduate Admissions Jeff Brenzel told the News Friday evening.

The admissions office sent acceptance letters this afternoon to 885 students of the 4,888 who applied, Brenzel said. Yale deferred 65 percent of applicants and rejected 16 percent. Although the acceptance rate decreased, the number of students accepted increased.

Last year, 709 students were selected from 3,594 early applicants for the Class of 2011, for an acceptance rate of 19.7 percent.

The 24.8 percent increase in the number of early acceptances this year is a result of both a larger pool and a larger number of highly qualified applicants, Brenzel said.

“The quantity and quality of the applications this year was extraordinary and unprecedented,” he said.

The number of applications received this year for Yale’s non-binding early action program increased by 36 percent over last year’s total.

Yale is the only remaining school in the Ivy League with an early action program, after Harvard and Princeton universities announced last year that they would cancel their early programs.

Because of this change to the admissions landscape, Brenzel said he expects a decrease in the overall percentage of students who accept an offer of admission — the yield — at all three institutions this year.

“I anticipate that relative to the past…we’ll see more students, as Harvard and Princeton will, who are applying to all three schools,” Brenzel said. “It stands to reason that all three schools will probably experience some decline in yield, because students will be applying to more of the schools.”

Yale’s yield for all accepted students — both early and regular — has hovered around 71 percent for the past three years.

Concerns about Yale’s yield could have prompted the increase in early acceptances, said Jon Reider, college counseling director at San Francisco’s private University High School. Taking a larger number of students early, he said, could help the admissions office manage enrollment numbers in the event that accepted students decide to attend Princeton or Harvard.

At the same time, Reider said, Yale may have chosen to accept a smaller percentage of students early because of criticisms from the college counseling community that elite universities fill their classes with too many students accepted early.

“[Accepting a large percentage of early applicants] leaves the perception that applying early gives you a substantial benefit,” said Reider, who said he does not believe this is the case in general. “This is a response to broader pressures to try and change that perception,” he said, referring to Yale’s decreased percentage of students accepted early.

One factor that could affect Yale’s yield this year is the University’s financial-aid initiative, which University President Richard Levin said will be unveiled in January.

On Monday, Harvard announced a sweeping financial-aid initiative that will reduce the expected financial contributions from middle- and upper-middle-income families and completely eliminate student loans.

Under Harvard’s new policy, families of undergraduates with yearly incomes from $120,000 to $180,000 will be asked to pay 10 percent of their income in tuition. Families making between $60,000 and $120,000 will pay between zero and 10 percent of their yearly incomes.

Brenzel said he expects Yale’s new initiative to be “strong” and “well-received.”

Acceptances to Columbia University’s binding early decision program decreased by 1 percent from last year, to 23 percent. The early decision acceptance rate at Brown University also decreased slightly, by 0.1 percent, to 22.6 percent.

The other three Ivy League schools with early decision programs — the University of Pennsylvania, Cornell University and Dartmouth College — had not yet released early admissions acceptance statistics as of Friday evening.

Of the 4,888 applications, 46 were withdrawn or are incomplete, Brenzel said.

Students who apply to Yale by the Jan. 1 regular decision deadline or whose early applications were deferred will be notified of their admissions outcomes by the beginning of April.