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5 elite universities settle 'price-fixing cartel' suit for $104.5M

This is the latest development from a 2022 lawsuit that accused 17 of the nation’s most elite private schools of operating a “price-fixing cartel."
5 elite universities settle 'price-fixing cartel' suit for $104.5M
Posted at 2:47 PM, Jan 24, 2024

Yale, Brown, Columbia, Duke, and Emory have agreed to pay a combined fine of $104.5 million to settle a lawsuit that accused them of limiting students’ financial aid to favor wealthy applicants.

This is the latest development from a 2022 lawsuit filed by students who accused 17 of the nation’s most elite private schools of conspiring to reduce the financial aid they awarded to admitted students through a “price-fixing cartel."

The original lawsuit accused Brown, the California Institute of Technology, the University of Chicago, Columbia, Cornell, Dartmouth, Duke, Emory, Georgetown, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Northwestern, Notre Dame, the University of Pennsylvania, Rice, Vanderbilt, Yale, and Johns Hopkins University, which was later added in 2023. So far, all the universities have denied any wrongdoing.

“We vehemently believe that the claims had no merit, but given the time and financial resources required to take this case to trial, we determined that our resources are better spent resolving this matter and supporting the education of our students,” said Brown University spokesperson Brian E. Clark in a press release. 

Brown is obligated to pay $19.5 million, Emory and Yale are required to pay $18.5 million each and Columbia and Duke each have a settlement of $24 million, according to the court document filed Tuesday.

The University of Chicago and Vanderbilt University both reached settlements in 2023, with Vanderbilt's settlement amount undisclosed as it’s not yet finalized, and the University of Chicago settling for $13.5 million.

Including Chicago, the settlements reached so far will collectively provide $118 million in cash payments to current and former students who submit timely claims, were enrolled full-time in the undergraduate programs of the schools, received need-based financial aid, and had their tuition, fees, room, and board not entirely covered by the received aid. Students could receive approximately $750 from these settlements.

The remaining schools have yet to announce any further developments in the lawsuits.

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