Special Reports

Elite Universities Settle for $166 Million in College Admissions Scandal


In a major development in the ongoing federal antitrust lawsuit over college financial aid practices, Dartmouth, Northwestern, Rice, and Vanderbilt universities have collectively agreed to pay a staggering $166 million. This move aims to resolve claims that these prestigious institutions favored wealthy student applicants, violating a pledge not to consider students' finances in admissions decisions. The total settlements in the lawsuit now amount to an eye-watering $284 million.

(Photo : Wikimedia Commons / Kane5187)

Elite Institutions Settle: $166 Million Payout Unveiled

The lawsuit, initiated in 2022, alleged that 17 renowned colleges and universities breached US antitrust laws by giving an unfair advantage to affluent students, violating the commitment to remain impartial in admissions based on financial considerations. Legal representatives for a proposed class of hundreds of thousands of current and former US students revealed these latest settlements in a filing late Friday in a Chicago federal court.

Dartmouth and Rice have committed to paying $33.75 million each, while Northwestern has agreed to a settlement of $43.5 million. Vanderbilt, facing the highest payout among the four, will contribute $55 million to resolve the claims against it. Earlier in the legal proceedings, Brown, Yale, and Columbia universities collectively settled for $62 million to resolve claims against them.

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Institutions Defend Actions Amid Legal Wave

Despite the substantial settlements, the accused institutions, including those that have reached agreements, have consistently denied any wrongdoing. In statements released, Northwestern, Dartmouth, Vanderbilt, and Rice emphasized that settling with the plaintiffs allows them to put the case behind them and concentrate on their core academic missions.

However, the legal battle is far from over, as the case continues against seven other prestigious schools, including Cornell University, University of Pennsylvania, and Georgetown University. These institutions are yet to reach a settlement and will face ongoing scrutiny in court.

Impact on Students: Compensation and Ongoing Litigation

Ted Normand, the attorney for the plaintiffs, conveyed hope regarding the recent settlements, asserting that they would substantially raise compensation for class members affected by alleged preferential treatment. The proposed class includes hundreds of thousands of students who, as per the lawsuit, endured harm due to the purported actions of the defendants' cartel.

A court filing indicates that the average payout to members of the class is anticipated to be $750, although individual compensation amounts may vary based on the specifics of each case. These settlements are still subject to a judge's consideration and approval, highlighting the complex legal processes involved in resolving a case of this magnitude.

The repercussions of the college admissions scandal extend beyond financial compensation, raising questions about the fairness and transparency of the college admissions process at some of the nation's most prestigious institutions. Critics argue that these legal actions underscore the need for greater accountability and oversight in university admissions to ensure equal opportunities for students from all socioeconomic backgrounds.

As the legal proceedings unfold, the outcomes of the remaining seven schools facing allegations will be closely watched. The case serves as a stark reminder of the challenges universities face in balancing their pursuit of academic excellence with the imperative to uphold principles of fairness and equal access in the admissions process.

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