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CollegeNET, a business that provides a number of admissions-related services to colleges, has announced an antitrust lawsuit against the Common Application. "Common Application has orchestrated a sea change in the student application process, turning a once vibrant, diverse and highly competitive market into a straitjacketed ward of uniformity," the suit says. "[D]iversity and competition have been virtually eliminated among ‘elite’ colleges, approximately 85 percent of whom are members of the Common Application." The press release announcing the suit also charges that the association imposes rules on members that have the impact of increasing application costs to students, and pressuring colleges to use the Common Application exclusively rather than using multiple admissions services.
The Common Application has faced considerable criticism in the last year over the numerous bugs and glitches in a new software system. While much of the criticism has focused on technology, pricing structure has also been an issue. And an outside consultant's report for Common Application questioned whether the incentives the Common Application gives member colleges to use the application exclusively advance or detract from the organization's mission. When the application problems were blocking applicants from submitting applications last fall, institutions that were exclusive Common Application users faced more difficulty coming up with alternatives for applicants.
A spokesman for the Common Application said via email that "we have just learned about this lawsuit, and will reserve any comment on the matter. The Common Application is a nonprofit, voluntary membership organization that has been dedicated to promoting equity, access and integrity in the college application process for nearly 40 years."