US universities settle financial-aid antitrust lawsuit for $166 million

By Thomson Reuters Feb 23, 2024 | 7:01 PM

By Mike Scarcella

(Reuters) – Dartmouth, Northwestern, Rice and Vanderbilt universities have agreed to pay a combined $166 million to resolve claims that they favored wealthy student applicants, pushing total settlements in a federal antitrust lawsuit over college financial aid practices to $284 million.

Lawyers for a proposed class of hundreds of thousands of current and former U.S. students disclosed the latest settlements in a filing late Friday in Chicago federal court.

The 2022 lawsuit said 17 prominent colleges and universities violated U.S. antitrust law by violating a pledge not to consider students’ finances in making admissions decisions, giving wealthy students an edge.

Dartmouth and Rice said they would each pay $33.75 million. Northwestern agreed to pay $43.5 million, and Vanderbilt will pay $55 million.

Brown, Yale and Columbia universities earlier agreed to pay a combined $62 million to resolve claims against them.

The schools, including those that have reached settlements, have denied wrongdoing.

Northwestern, Dartmouth and Vanderbilt in statements said settling with the plaintiffs allowed them to move past the case and focus on their academic missions.

Rice did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The case will continue against seven schools, including Cornell University, University of Pennsylvania and Georgetown University.

Ted Normand, a lawyer for the plaintiffs, in a statement said, “These new settlements will significantly increase the compensation to the class members for the harm we allege the defendants’ cartel caused.”

Average payouts to members of the class are expected to be $750, according to a court filing.

The settlements are subject to a judge’s consideration and approval.

(Reporting by Mike Scarcella; Editing by David Bario and Cynthia Osterman)