Data on the 16 Schools Accused in “Price-fixing Cartel”

Here are the facts on the 16 elite schools named in a recent lawsuit that accuses them of breaking antitrust laws and failing to live up to their “need-blind” admissions motto.

Shadi Bushra Written By: Shadi Bushra
Published: February 15, 2022

Former alumni have filed a class-action lawsuit against sixteen private colleges and universities, accusing the group of breaking antitrust law by colluding to raise the price of attendance since 2003. This “price-fixing cartel” then allegedly set limits on how much financial aid any of their group would offer certain students. The suit also alleges that certain colleges engaged in “need-aware” admissions, dictating how many students that needed financial aid could be admitted. If true, this would directly contradict the self-ascribed “need-blind” admission process all of the schools say they adhere to.

All of the schools have either declined to comment on pending litigation or reaffirmed that their admissions and financial aid decisions are in compliance with all applicable laws.

What is Need-Blind Admission?

Need-blind admissions refers to making admissions decisions without consideration of a potential student’s ability to pay the sticker price of attending a college. It is considered a significant tool to encourage students of ability, regardless of their families’ financial status, to apply to and attend these very elite, very expensive schools. Being need-blind is a statutory requirement for institutions to participate in an antitrust exemption granted by Congress in Section 568 of the Improving America’s Schools Act of 1994. This exemption from certain antitrust laws – pending an institution’s commitment to remaining need-blind – remains in effect until September 30, 2022.

How Do these Schools Allegedly Operate as a “Price-Fixing Cartel?”

The lawsuit alleges that the consortium of elite universities known as “568 Presidents Group” decides on financial aid awards using a framework called the “consensus methodology.” This methodology is “explicitly aimed to reduce or eliminate price competition among its members,” violating federal antitrust laws, the lawsuit alleges. It goes on to say that eliminating competition in financial aid offers is “simply a means of coalescing around a uniform and lower level of aid to all prospective students.”

What Do We Know About These Schools?

The lawsuit alleges many practices and policies that have yet to be proven in court. But there is plenty that we already know about these institutions, based on Department of Education statistics. This fact sheet has pulled out and grouped together some of those data points that can help us begin to answer questions such as: How exclusive are these schools? How wealthy are they? How expensive are they on paper? How expensive are they in practice? Does a student get more interaction with teachers there? Does a student have a higher chance of graduating from there? And the ultimate question, which will vary on a case-by-case basis, are these elite institutions worth it?

The factsheets also points out how much schools varied along some indicators, such as size, wealth, or student-to-faculty ratio, and how homogenous they were along others, such as their graduation rates and their sticker prices to attend.

General Info
School Total Enrolled Undergrads Enrolled Student:Faculty Ratio
Brown 9,948 6,792 6:1 $6,900,000,000
CalTech 2,240 901 3:1 $3,100,000,000
U Chicago 17,834 7,056 5:1 $11,600,000,000
Columbia 30,135 8,148 6:1 $14,350,000,000
Cornell 23,620 14,743 9:1 $10,000,000,000
Dartmouth 6,292 4,170 7:1 $8,500,000,000
Duke 16,172 6,717 6:1 $12,700,000,000
Emory 13,997 7,010 9:1 $7,940,000,000
Georgetown 19,371 7,357 11:1 $1,800,000,000
MIT 11,254 4,361 3:1 $27,400,000,000
Northwestern 22,603 8,559 6:1 $14,900,000,000
Notre Dame 12,809 8,874 9:1 $20,300,000,000
U Penn 26,552 11,155 6:1 $20,500,000,000
Rice 7,643 4,076 6:1 $8,100,000,000
Vanderbilt 13,573 7,057 8:1 $10,930,000,000
Yale 12,060 4,703 4:1 $42,300,000,000
Average 15,381 6,980 6:1 $13,832,500,000
Financial Aid For Incoming First-Year Students
School # Receiving Aid % Recieving Aid Total Aid Disbursed
Brown 725 44% $34,737,568 $47,914
CalTech 134 57% $6,185,797 $46,136
U Chicago 894 52% $38,395,791 $42,948
Columbia 759 53% $42,332,018 $55,773
Cornell 1,431 45% $66,066,035 $46,168
Dartmouth 531 45% $26,768,464 $50,411
Duke 802 46% $39,306,562 $49,011
Emory 722 53% $31,367,834 $43,446
Georgetown 686 43% $29,363,185 $42,803
MIT 660 60% $33,517,987 $50,785
Northwestern 1,214 61% $57,694,388 $47,524
Notre Dame 1,147 56% $49,105,884 $42,812
U Penn 1,104 47% $56,490,483 $51,169
Rice 574 60% $26,078,289 $45,433
Vanderbilt 986 62% $44,677,895 $45,312
Yale 819 53% $46,340,145 $56,581
Average 824 52% $39,276,770 $47,776
Admissions and Graduation
School Acceptance Rate % Acceptees Enrolled 4yr Grad Rate
Brown 8% 62% 84% 95%
CalTech 7% 42% 86% 92%
U Chicago 7% 74% 91% 96%
Columbia 7% 56% 86% 96%
Cornell 11% 59% 89% 95%
Dartmouth 9% 54% 88% 95%
Duke 8% 51% 88% 96%
Emory 19% 25% 82% 90%
Georgetown 17% 45% 90% 94%
MIT 7% 73% 87% 96%
Northwestern 9% 52% 85% 95%
Notre Dame 19% 54% 93% 97%
U Penn 9% 61% 86% 96%
Rice 11% 39% 85% 94%
Vanderbilt 12% 40% 88% 93%
Yale 7% 55% 84% 96%
Average 10.44% 52.63% 87.00% 94.75%
Tuition, Fees, Expenses
School Total Cost 17-18 Total Cost 20-21 % Change 17-18 to 20-21
Brown $71,050 $80,448 13.23% 3.8%
CalTech $68,901 $77,718 12.80% 4.0%
U Chicago $75,735 $81,531 7.65% 0.0%
Columbia $74,353 $77,603 4.37% -2.7%
Cornell $70,321 $78,992 12.33% 4.9%
Dartmouth $71,827 $80,184 11.63% 3.9%
Duke $72,466 $77,069 6.35% -1.0%
Emory $66,950 $72,884 8.86% 0.4%
Georgetown $71,580 $78,754 10.02% 3.2%
MIT $67,430 $72,462 7.46% -1.0%
Northwestern $72,980 $81,283 11.38% 3.3%
Notre Dame $69,395 $76,883 10.79% 3.6%
U Penn $72,584 $81,110 11.75% 3.7%
Rice $63,158 $69,557 10.13% 3.7%
Vanderbilt $67,392 $76,044 12.84% 4.0%
Yale $71,290 $79,370 11.33% 3.6%
Average $70,463 $77,618 10.18% 2.3%

What Could the Consequences of This Suit Be?

However this lawsuit goes, the accusation of falsifying or exaggerating their need-blind state has at least bruised some schools’ reputations and has alumni, lawyers, and eventually jurors asking some tough questions.

It is yet to be seen if this suit, which is playing out in federal court in Illinois, will be a drag on key indicators for the universities, such as tuition or enrollment figures for next school year.

ADVERTISEMENT

Start Your Online College Search:

Review schools that align with your career aspirations.