Updated Jan 24, 2024 - Politics & Policy

More elite universities reach antitrust lawsuit settlements, totaling $118 million

Students outside Henry R. Kravis Hall and David Geffen Hall at the Columbia Business School campus in New York, US, on Thursday, Sept. 8, 2022.

Students outside Henry R. Kravis Hall and David Geffen Hall at the Columbia Business School campus in New York, US, on Thursday, Sept. 8, 2022. Photo: Amir Hamja/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Elite U.S. universities, including Yale and Columbia, reached further settlements Tuesday in an antitrust lawsuit alleging price-fixing, agreeing to pay $118 million collectively.

Why it matters: The universities named in the lawsuit — described by plaintiffs as a "price-fixing cartel" and accused of favoring wealthy students — are supposed to be need blind in decision processes because of exemption from antitrust laws.

  • The plaintiffs alleged that the universities' formulas in determining aid provided less than "full and fair compensation."
  • The lawsuit alleged that schools conspired to reduce the amount of financial aid they give to students.
  • Need-blind admissions don't take students' finances into account when weighing their application.

State of play: Eight schools have reached a settlement.

  • The universities have said that the "claims lack merit" and "awards were not artificially reduced," a court document said.

Zoom out: The settlements will provide payments to students who received partial need-based aid.

  • Chicago: $13.5 million
  • Emory: $18.5 million
  • Yale: $18.5 million
  • Brown: $19.5 million
  • Columbia: $24 million
  • Duke: $24 million

Between the lines: Vanderbilt told the court last year that it planned to settle, the New York Times reported.

  • Rice said in a financial statement that it agreed to pay nearly $34 million.
  • Nine defendants have ongoing litigation, including Georgetown and Johns Hopkins, per the Washington Post.

Catch up quick: 17 universities were defendants in the lawsuit:

  • Brown, California Institute of Technology, University of Chicago, Columbia, Cornell, Dartmouth, Duke, Emory, Georgetown, Johns Hopkins, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Northwestern, University of Notre Dame, University of Pennsylvania, William Marsh Rice (Rice), Vanderbilt and Yale University.
  • The lawsuit alleges that they conspired through an organization called the 568 Presidents Group, which has since dissolved, by sharing sensitive information regarding financial aid and financial aid principles.

What's next: The settlement money will go toward former full-time undergraduate students who received at least some, but not full, need-based aid, starting from various semesters until the court order:

  • Students who attended from fall 2003 onward at Chicago, Columbia, Cornell, Duke, Georgetown, MIT, Northwestern, Notre Dame, Penn, Rice, Vanderbilt, Yale.
  • Students who attended from fall 2004 onward at Brown, Dartmouth and Emory.
  • Students who attended from fall 2019 onward at CalTech.
  • Students who attended from fall 2021 onward at Johns Hopkins.

Read the settlement:

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