Antitrust Suit Against Yale and Other Universities Continues
Yale and sixteen other schools in the 568 Presidents Group were sued this year for considering student financial status in admission.
Jessie Cheung, Staff Photographer
Decisions are still awaited in the recent lawsuit alleging that Yale and other elite universities considered applicants’ financial standing during the admission process.
Nine members of the 568 Presidents Group, a cluster of 17 universities that share financial aid calculations, were accused in January of violating antitrust law. The plaintiffs alleged that the group — which includes Yale — broke the law by considering financial aid status when assessing applicants. The universities in the group can only legally collaborate under Section 568 of the 1994 Improving America’s Schools Act if the schools practice need-blind admissions. Five alumni brought the suit against universities in the 568 Presidents Group.
“This is going to 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,” Georgetown Law Professor Howard Shelanski told the News after the case was first filed. “They’re sympathetic defendants.”
Sixteen of the 568 President Group universities were named in the original complaint filed on Jan. 9. Nine of the sixteen— Columbia University, Dartmouth College, Duke University, Georgetown University, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Northwestern University, Notre Dame University, the University of Pennsylvania and Vanderbilt University — were accused of being need-aware. Yale and six other universities were originally named in the suit only for being members of the group, which the plaintiffs alleged became an illegal organization as soon as one member considered need. In an amended complaint, however, Yale and eight other universities in the group — including Johns Hopkins University, which had not been sued in the initial complaint — were accused of weighing family finances by considering donor gifts and considering a student’s ability to pay during waitlist and transfer admissions.
“Defendants have … made admissions decisions with regard to the financial circumstances of students and their families, thereby disfavoring students who need financial aid,” the claim reads. “All Defendants, in turn, have conspired to reduce the amount of financial aid they provide to admitted students.”
In April, Yale signed a joint motion to dismiss the case with the other 16 defendants and filed an individual motion arguing that, because Yale had not used the consensus method of calculating financial aid in 14 years, the case should be dismissed. In 2003, the 568 Presidents Group developed a “consensus approach” to calculate an applicant’s ability to pay according to the lawsuit. Yale adopted this methodology in 2003 but seemed to have left the group in 2007 and rejoined again in 2018. The University argued in the individual motion to dismiss that the statute of limitations ran out on the case in the ten-year period since it left the 568 Presidents Group.
“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.
Although the University argued that it did not use the consensus method, the joint motion the University signed onto defends its legality. The motion argues that accepting donor gifts and considering wealth in waitlist and transfer admission do not violate Section 568 and that the law would only be breached if applicants were disfavored because they need financial aid.
Universities, the suit argues, have the resources to provide more financial aid, citing growing university endowments. Yale’s 1096 percent endowment growth between 1994 and 2021 — the period of time over which the University’s endowment reached $42.3 billion — was particularly noted in the updated lawsuit.
The suit is at least the fourth in recent years to scrutinize Yale’s admissions practices. A Yale athletic coach was implicated in the 2019 “Varsity Blues” scandal, in which athletic officials at elite universities were accused of taking bribes to facilitate admissions. The United States Department of Justice under then-President Donald Trump sued Yale in 2020, alleging that its affirmative action policies violated national law. The suit was dropped by the DOJ in early 2021 after President Joe Biden took office. Students for Fair Admissions — the plaintiff in the Harvard University affirmative action case facing the Supreme Court — also sued Yale for discriminating against white and Asian students last February. However, Connecticut Courts decided to hold the case until the Supreme Court makes its Harvard decision.
In the original suit, the plaintiffs argue that more than 170,000 former undergraduate students, going back 18 years, are qualified to join the suit as plaintiffs.