Ryan Chiao, Senior Photographer

Yale lawyers filed two motions Friday to dismiss the antitrust case against the 568 Presidents Group, a group of elite universities who were accused of colluding to keep financial aid awards down.

The 568 Presidents Group consists of 17 selective universities that share financial aid formulas. In January, several alumni of the universities sued members of the group, alleging that nine of the schools practice need-aware admissions and thus have violated section 568 of 1994’s Improving America’s Schools Act, which allows financial aid collaboration only if universities do not consider monetary need in admissions. An amended complaint filed in February accused all of the defendants — including Yale — of examining need and added Johns Hopkins University as the 17th defendant.

Yale signed onto a joint motion to dismiss the suit that argues on behalf of all 17 defendants in the case. The University also submitted an individual motion to dismiss, which said that because Yale has not used the 568 Presidents Group’s method of calculating financial aid in the last 14 years, any lawsuit against Yale should be dismissed. Both documents were filed on April 15.

“Plaintiffs do not — and cannot consistent with Rule 11 — allege that Yale follows the Consensus Methodology in determining a student’s need for financial aid,” Yale’s motion reads.

When asked for a statement, University spokesperson Karen Peart told the News to refer to the filing, which “speaks for itself.” Previously, Peart said that Yale’s financial aid practices are “100% compliant” with U.S. law.

Yale joined the 568 Presidents Group in 2003 before leaving in 2007 and signing on again in 2018. The motion claims Yale did not begin employing the consensus approach at this point, despite its renewed membership in the consortium. 

Yale’s motion said that the University stopped following the group’s consensus methodology in “2008 or 2009.” Because the Clayton Act — a statute of antitrust law used in the case — has a four-year statute of limitations, Yale argued, the University cannot be sued for any antitrust violation.

Though Yale insisted that it does not employ the consensus methodology, Yale’s joint motion with the other 16 universities vouches for the method’s legality. The defendants disputed the plaintiffs’ claims that they broke Section 568 by accepting donor gifts and considering wealth in waitlist and transfer admissions.

“That interpretation ignores the common understanding of the term ‘need-blind’ and disregards the statute’s structure, history, and purpose,” the motion reads. “These factors make clear that considering financial circumstances in admissions decisions implicates Section 568 only if it disfavors particular applicants because they need financial aid.”

The defendants hold that their collaboration increases the accessibility of higher education, while the plaintiffs allege that the group’s practices create disproportionately rich student bodies among their member institutions.

“The defendants easily had, and continue to have, the financial means to provide more generous financial aid awards to their students — in particular, for low- and middle-income families struggling to afford the cost of a university education and to achieve success for their children — if the defendants were not colluding,” a February news release from the plaintiffs’ legal team said. 

Howard Shelanski, professor at Georgetown Law School, told the News in February that the 568 Presidents Group suit would be “a challenging case for the plaintiffs to win, especially because they’re dealing with universities who are giving a lot of financial aid and trying to make it easier for a lot of students to attend.”

Along with Yale, the suit accused Brown University, the California Institute of Technology, the University of Chicago, Columbia University, Cornell University, Dartmouth College, Duke University, Emory University, Georgetown University, Johns Hopkins University, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Northwestern University, Notre Dame University, the University of Pennsylvania, Rice University and Vanderbilt University of factoring need in admissions, and therefore violating Section 568.

Section 568 is set to expire in September.

JORDAN FITZGERALD
Jordan Fitzgerald edits for WKND and writes about admissions, financial aid & alumni. She is a junior in Trumbull College majoring in American history.