A new lawsuit accuses 16 of the top universities in the United States of violating antitrust laws and acting as a cartel in collaborating to manage the amount of financial aid given to students. Five former undergraduate students universities have filed a federal lawsuit against a list of schools which includes Yale, Notre Dame, Columbia, Emory, and the University of Pennsylvania. They intend to expand it into a class-action lawsuit.
Universities sued by former students
The lawsuit in part accuses the universities of collectively favoring students from wealthy and well-connected families, citing the “development potential” of these prospective students to justify giving them “extra consideration.”
“Development potential” is a euphemism for the assumption that students from wealthy families will be likely to make large donations in the future in exchange for preferential treatment in the admissions process.
For students who do not have the benefit of familial wealth or connections, the lawsuit claims that these top universities have made it difficult to gain admission based on individual merit.
The argument is that, by collaborating to fix the amount of financial aid each school will offer to students, the universities have prevented competition in the group.
Rather than competing to offer better incentives to qualified applicants, the schools have ensured that students have to simply accept the high prices charged for tuition if they wish to attend one of the prestigious schools.
All of the defendant institutions are considered to be elite schools. A degree from one of them is not the same product as a degree from a school that offers less prestige and name recognition.
Uphill battle against wealthy schools
These universities are exempt from federal antitrust legislation in their collaboration with competitors on the condition that their admissions system be need-blind.
Analysts believe that the schools will be able to use this exemption to win or dismiss the case altogether, given their vast resources and legal expertise.
Technically the students may have a very good case; it’s an open secret that admissions offices favor applicants who can offer additional money beyond the official costs.
The problem for the students will be in actually proving that the schools violated antitrust legislation. It would be near impossible to prove that a university let wealth or connections impact their decisions, even if it seems like an obvious assumption.
The cost of tuition has skyrocketed in the last few decades, while young people are simultaneously told that they need a college education to succeed. Far too many people are now going to college who shouldn’t be, all of them enriching school administrators.
For all the devoted communists on American college and university campuses, higher education in America is very much devoted to money making. Often at the expense of students who really are qualified.