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The University of Chicago’s Independent Student Newspaper since 1892

Chicago Maroon

The University of Chicago’s Independent Student Newspaper since 1892

Chicago Maroon

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University to Pay $13.5 Million to Settle Financial Aid Antitrust Lawsuit

An estimated 200,000 students across 17 universities may be eligible for cash payment according to a new court filing.
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Adyant Kanakamedala
The south face of Harper Library.

The University has agreed to pay $13.5 million to settle an antitrust lawsuit that was first filed in early 2022, according to a proposed settlement agreement filed on August 14. The proposed settlement, which accused it and 16 other top universities of illegally price-fixing their financial aid, is now subject to final approval by a judge.

UChicago is the first of the 17 universities named in the lawsuit to settle. As part of the tentative agreement, the University has agreed to provide information, documents, and a witness interview, which may help the plaintiffs’ case against the other universities. If approved, the settlement would provide cash payments to students who have received financial aid from any of the defendant universities since 2003. The plaintiffs estimate this could amount to 200,000 students.

First filed on January 9, 2022 in Illinois federal court, the lawsuit alleges that the University was a part of a “price-fixing cartel” that used a shared methodology for calculating financial need that limited financial aid for admitted students. The University announced its decision to settle on April 19, 2023, but details of the settlement were not released until the August 14 filing.

In a statement to The Maroon, University spokesperson Gerald McSwiggan emphasized that the settlement is not an admission of guilt. Instead, the University hopes to avoid the cost of further litigation.

“The University of Chicago is committed to removing financial barriers for undergraduate students who are admitted to the College and is proud of the extensive financial aid we offer to students,” the statement reads. “The University believes the plaintiffs’ claims are without merit. We look forward to putting this matter behind us and continuing to focus our efforts on expanding access to a transformative undergraduate education.”

All of these universities were once part of a group known as the 568 Presidents Group, named after Section 568 of the Improving America’s Schools Act. The act allowed universities to share the same methodology for calculating financial aid as long as they used need-blind admissions policies, meaning that the universities did not consider an applicant’s ability to pay when deciding whether to accept them. The plaintiffs argue that the universities do consider the students’ ability to pay and favor wealthy applicants, thereby violating the terms of Section 568’s antitrust exemption.

After filing the lawsuit, the defendant universities filed motions to dismiss the case. In response, the U.S. Department of Justice and the New York Attorney General filed briefs in support of the students. United States District Court Judge Matthew F. Kennelly subsequently denied the universities’ motion in all respects.

The 568 Presidents Group was disbanded in 2022 after the Improving America’s Schools Act expired without renewal from the Congress. The University was a member of the group from 1998 to 2014.

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About the Contributor
Eric Fang
Eric Fang, News Editor, Photo Editor, Design Associate
Eric Fang is a third-year in the College majoring in economics and public policy. He is a news and photo editor for The Maroon with an interest in local housing, campus security, and politics. In his free time, he enjoys biking, listening to music, and exploring Chicago food.
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