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New Lawsuit Blasts 16 Private Universities For Allegedly Overcharging Financial Aid Recipients

In a new lawsuit filed this past Sunday, sixteen high-profile universities were accused of “artificially inflat[ing] the net price of attendance for students receiving financial aid.”

The universities in question include six Ivy League schools: Brown, Columbia, Cornell, Dartmouth, the University of Pennsylvania, and Yale. The remaining universities are the California Institute of Technology, the University of Chicago, Duke, Emory, Georgetown, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Northwestern, Notre Dame, Rice, and Vanderbilt.

All of these institutions are accused of conspiring to limit the amount of financial aid they provide students, and some allegedly even “favored wealthy applicants in the admissions process.”

Notably, there are no HBCUs named in the lawsuit. Five former students brought on the matter with a mission: Sia Henry, Michael Maerlander, Brandon Piyevsky, Kara Saffrin, and Brittany Tatiana Weaver.

“As a result of this conspiracy, the net price of attendance for financial-aid recipients at Defendants’ schools has been artificially inflated,” reads the filing. “In short, due to the conduct challenged herein, over almost two decades, Defendants have overcharged over 170,000 financial-aid recipients by at least hundreds of millions of dollars.”

“In critical respects, elite, private universities like Defendants are gatekeepers to the American Dream,” the lawsuit continues. “Defendants’ misconduct is therefore particularly egregious because it has narrowed a critical pathway to upward mobility that admission to their institutions represents.”

The plaintiffs seek compensation for all U.S. Citizens or permanent residents who previously attended one of the universities in question as full-time students. Students must have received financial aid that didn’t cover the tuition costs fully. Additionally, the lawsuit is only eligible for people who attended one of the universities since 2003.

The lawsuit also seeks compensation for family members who helped fund the students through college in the face of the universities’ alleged overcharging. 

Karen Peart, a spokeswoman for Yale, acknowledged the lawsuit by stating the institution’s “financial aid policy is 100 percent compliant with all applicable laws.” Spokespeople for Brown and the California Institute of Technology also denied the allegations.

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