the westminster news
Published by the students of Westminster School
By Heather Zhu ’23
Columbia University, University of Pennsylvania, Yale University, California Institute of Technology, Dartmouth College … The names of 16 well-known, top universities and colleges, familiar to almost every high school student across the nation, appeared in the federal court of Illinois as they are faced with a lawsuit accusing them of price fixing and overcharging hundreds of thousands of current and former students eligible for financial aid within the last two decades.
United States’ most prestigious universities, supposedly meritocratic and need blind, are in fact sued for discrimination against students of lower income. Although it is legal for schools a part of the President 568 group — an affiliation of colleges and universities, founded in 1994, who practice need blind policies — to share formulas when calculating financial aid, the financial needs of an applicant should not be a factor of their admissions decision. The current lawsuit filed by five former students from some of the 16 defendant schools alleged that nine colleges, such as University of Pennsylvania and Vanderbilt University, have unlawfully taken students’ ability to pay into their waitlist admission decisions while the other seven schools, though not guilty of such practice, were aware of their conspiracy. Families with lower income bear the burden of unfair admission practices for waitlisted applicants with greater need for financial aid have a lower chance of getting accepted. The discriminatory favor of wealthy students and the members of the ‘568 price fixing cartel’s’ collusion to minimize the amount of financial aid offered to students have inflated the price of attending these elite universities.
The right to higher education, often seen as the key to upward social mobility for lower/ middle income families, has been hindered by the unjust admission practices of colleges. The plaintiff calls on other alumni, who were overcharged for their attendance in the aforementioned universities, and current students, whose financial aid have been limited due to illegal practices of the ‘cartel’, to join them in their lawsuit against these schools. The plaintiff hopes to end admissions bias based on financial needs.