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Harvard and Other Universities to Pay $62m to Settle Claim That They Favor Wealthy Applicants – Legal Reader

Harvard, along with several other members of the former 568 Presidents Group, will pay tens of millions of dollars to settle the claim, which they still insist was “without merit.”

A group of universities, including the likes of Harvard, Columbia, and Brown, will pay a combined $62 million to settle claims that they favor wealthy applicants in their admissions process.
According to The Guardian, attorneys for the proposed class—consisting of more than 200,000 current and former U.S. college students—disclosed the terms of the latest agreements in a Tuesday filing in Chicago federal court.
If approved, the settlement would increase the class’s total compensation to about $118 million.
Other schools—including Cornell, Georgetown, and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology—are still embroiled in litigation, with no clear trial date in sight.
The New York Times notes that the “sprawling” lawsuit targeted 17 prestigious schools, all of which were, or had been, members of the 568 President Groups. The group, formally dissolved in 2022, was intended to provide antitrust protection to its members.
In the complaint, attorneys for the class claimed that practices intended to offer “need-blind” admission actually emphasized wait-listed applicants’ financial details while deliberating which students should receive offers.
Columbia University in New York City. Image via Flickr/user:ajay_suresh. (CCA-BY-2.0). (source:
The practice of selectively emphasizing financial aid when discussing wait-listed applications raised antitrust concerns, as the universities purportedly “agreed among themselves on how to calculate need-based financial aid ‘to reduce or eliminate […] price competition’ between members of the 568 Presidents Group” while ensuring that families “pay ‘the maximum that they are capable of paying.’”
Vanderbilt University, for instance, stressed on one of its websites that it reserved “the right to be need-aware when admitting wait-listed students.”
Many of the schools that have since settled, or offered to settle, refuse to admit any wrongdoing or fault.
“Though we believe the plaintiffs’ claims are without merit, we have reached a settlement in the best interest of our continuing focus on providing talented scholars from all social, cultural, and economic backgrounds one of the world’s best undergraduate educations and the opportunity to graduate debt-free,” said Nashville-based Vanderbilt University, which has yet to reach an agreement but is currently finalizing the details of a proposed settlement.
Attorneys for the class told The New York Times that settlement with the former 568 Presidents Group schools was in their clients’ best interests.
The settlements “were not achieved as a group or all at once, but instead were separately pursued over the course of time.”
“[We] pursued a strategy of increasing the settlement amounts with each successive agreement or set of agreements to exert pressure on non-settling defendants to reach agreement imminently or risk having to pay significantly more by waiting,” the class’s lawyers told The New York Times.
Brown, Yale and Columbia to pay $62m in lawsuit claiming they favor wealthy applicants
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