Sixteen major universities conspired to limit student financial aid, new lawsuits

Sixteen of America’s most prestigious universities are accused of violating antitrust law by agreeing to limit financial aid to student applicants, according to a new class action lawsuit.

Ivy League schools, including Yale, Columbia, Dartmouth, Brown and the University of Pennsylvania, are among the defendants listed in the lawsuit filed Sunday in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois.

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A woman walks on the campus of Columbia University on March 9, 2020 in New York City. (Photo by Jeenah Moon/Getty Images)

the the wall street journal was the first to report the story on Monday.

The five plaintiffs in the lawsuit — Sia Henry, Michael Maerlander, Brandon Pievsky, Kara Safrin and Brittany Tatiana Weaver — are all former students who attended one of the 16 schools named in the complaint.

Plaintiffs say the schools being sued have overcharged 170,000 financial aid recipients by at least “hundreds of millions of dollars” over the past 18-plus years. They are asking for damages and an end to the shared methodology the named universities use to determine financial need and award aid.

College and university presidents from all named schools are part of the 568 Presidents Group, whose members have agreed to an unfair “set of common standards” to establish student families’ ability to pay for college, according to the complaint.

“These same defendants, by their own admission, participated in a price-fixing cartel which seeks to reduce or eliminate financial aid as a venue for competition, and which in effect artificially inflated the net price of attendance at students receiving financial aid,” the complaint reads.

Rice against Notre Dame
The Hesburgh Library mural, commonly known as ‘Touchdown Jesus’, is seen on the campus of Notre Dame University August 30, 2014 in South Bend, Indiana. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)

Duke, Georgetown, MIT, Northwestern, Notre Dame and Vanderbilt are among nine schools that the lawsuit said maintained admissions systems favoring “children of a rich past or potential future donors.”

Caltech, Chicago, Cornell, Emory and Rice are among the seven schools accused of conspiring with the other defendants.

A Yale spokeswoman said The Wall Street Journal that the university’s financial aid policy is “100% compliant with all applicable laws.”

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A Caltech spokeswoman told the newspaper that the Pasadena-based school was confident in its helping practices. A spokesperson for Brown told the Newspaper that the complaint filed on Sunday is unfounded.

Plaintiffs’ attorneys say more undergraduate students may be eligible to join the class action.

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