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The Dartmouth
April 20, 2024 | Latest Issue
The Dartmouth

Dartmouth agrees to $33.75 million settlement following antitrust lawsuit

In addition to Dartmouth, three other universities agreed to settlements worth a total of $166 million.

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According to a memorandum filed Feb. 23, Dartmouth has agreed to a settlement of $33.75 million in a class-action lawsuit brought against 17 universities by former students, which accused them of conspiring to minimize financial aid for students from working- and middle-class families. Dartmouth, along with three co-defendants — Rice University, Northwestern University and Vanderbilt University — have agreed to settlements totaling $166 million.

Dartmouth, Rice, Northwestern and Vanderbilt join six other universities that previously reached settlements in the case. The University of Chicago was the first university to settle on Aug. 14, 2022, for $13.5 million, according to its student newspaper, The Chicago Maroon. Brown University, Columbia University, Duke University, Emory University and Yale University were granted settlements totaling $104.5 million on Feb. 14, 2024, according to the memorandum. In total, these settlements amount to $284 million. 

The lawsuit, which was brought in 2022, accused the named universities — all of which ostensibly practice need-blind admissions — of considering applicants’ ability to pay for admission to certain programs, as well as artificially inflating cost of attendance for financial aid recipients.

The defendants were members of the 568 Presidents Group, a collection of universities that were allowed to collaborate on financial aid formulas under a federal antitrust exemption as long as they did not consider a student’s ability to pay when determining admissions. The 568 Group was dissolved after the lawsuit was filed in 2022, according to its website.

According to the memorandum, the higher settlements reached by the four universities reflect the plaintiffs’ strategy of “increasing the settlement amounts with each successive agreement or set of agreements” in order to “put pressure on the non-settling Defendants to settle imminently.”

As of time of publication, the seven schools that have not settled are the California Institute of Technology, Cornell University, Georgetown University, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, the University of Notre Dame, the University of Pennsylvania and Johns Hopkins University.

According to The Washington Post, representatives from Vanderbilt and Northwestern wrote that their institutions reached settlements without admitting liability, in order to best maintain their academic focus.

When reached out to comment, College spokesperson Jana Barnello wrote in an email statement that Dartmouth’s spending on financial aid grew by 66% from 2014 to 2023, with 15% of the Class of 2027 receiving full-ride scholarships.

“Dartmouth is unwavering in its commitment to provide financial aid based solely on the individual needs of our students,” Barnello wrote.