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Judge Rejects Attempt to Dismiss Suit Against Colleges

August 16, 2022

Judge Matthew F. Kennelly on Monday rejected an attempt by 16 private colleges, all of them well-known, to dismiss an antitrust case against the colleges.

Kennelly rejected three separate proposals to dismiss the case. The college involved either are or were members of the 568 Group, which describes itself as “an affiliation of colleges and universities … [that] works together in an effort to maintain a need-based financial aid system that is understandable and fair and will bring greater clarity, simplicity, and equity to the process of assessing each family’s ability to pay for college.”

The grounds for the suit are that the colleges are not completely need-blind, which the colleges deny.

The judge wrote that “the plaintiffs allege that all the defendants consider the financial need of students and their families in deciding whether to admit waitlisted or transfer students. With respect to the former, the defendants criticize the evidence cited by the plaintiffs as too general or too old to support the contention that the defendants admitted waitlisted students on a need-aware basis during the relevant time period. These arguments do not fly on a motion to dismiss. The defendants’ criticisms go to the weight of the plaintiffs’ evidence; they arguably provide reasons to discredit the evidence but not a basis to find the plaintiffs’ allegations implausible. At summary judgment and trial, the plaintiffs may need to present additional evidence to prevail. At this stage, however, the allegations in the amended complaint are sufficient; the plaintiffs’ allegations on this point are plausible.”

In addition, the judge said, “The defendants also contend, in a footnote, that the need-blind requirement does not apply to waitlisted students. The court rejects this argument because it is inconsistent with the language of the exemption, which expressly states that ‘all’ students must be admitted on a need-blind basis.”

The colleges in the case are Brown, Columbia, Cornell, Duke, Emory, Georgetown, Northwestern, Rice, Vanderbilt and Yale Universities; the California Institute of Technology; Dartmouth College; the Massachusetts Institute of Technology; and the Universities of Chicago, Notre Dame and Pennsylvania.

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Scott Jaschik

Scott Jaschik, Editor, is one of the three founders of Inside Higher Ed. With Doug Lederman, he leads the editorial operations of Inside Higher Ed, overseeing news content, opinion pieces, career advice, blogs and other features. Scott is a leading voice on higher education issues, quoted regularly in publications nationwide, and publishing articles on colleges in publications such as The New York Times, The Boston Globe, The Washington Post, Salon, and elsewhere. He has been a judge or screener for the National Magazine Awards, the Online Journalism Awards, the Folio Editorial Excellence Awards, and the Education Writers Association Awards. Scott served as a mentor in the community college fellowship program of the Hechinger Institute on Education and the Media, of Teachers College, Columbia University. He is a member of the board of the Education Writers Association. From 1999-2003, Scott was editor of The Chronicle of Higher Education. Scott grew up in Rochester, N.Y., and graduated from Cornell University in 1985. He lives in Washington.

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