Four Universities, Including Dartmouth, Reach $166 Million Settlement in Class-Action Lawsuit Alleging Financial Aid Conspiracy

Hanover, New Hampshire – Dartmouth College has reached a settlement in a class-action lawsuit that accused the school, along with 16 other universities, of colluding to reduce financial aid for students from working- and middle-class families. According to a memorandum filed on February 23, Dartmouth has agreed to pay $33.75 million as part of the settlement. This comes after three other co-defendants, Rice University, Northwestern University, and Vanderbilt University, also agreed to settlements, bringing the total to $166 million.

The lawsuit, filed in 2022, alleged that these universities, all of which claimed to practice need-blind admissions, actually took applicants’ ability to pay into consideration when determining admissions and artificially inflated the cost of attendance for students receiving financial aid.

Previously, six other universities, including the University of Chicago, Brown University, Columbia University, Duke University, Emory University, and Yale University, reached settlements totaling $104.5 million in February 2024. The first settlement was reached by the University of Chicago in August 2022 for $13.5 million.

The universities named in the lawsuit were members of the 568 Presidents Group, which allowed them to collaborate on financial aid formulas under a federal antitrust exemption. However, the 568 Group dissolved after the lawsuit was filed.

The settlement amounts reached by the four universities reflect a strategy by the plaintiffs to increase the pressure on the remaining defendants to settle. As of now, seven universities have not settled, including the California Institute of Technology, Cornell University, Georgetown University, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, the University of Notre Dame, the University of Pennsylvania, and Johns Hopkins University.

Representatives from both Vanderbilt and Northwestern stated that their institutions reached settlements without admitting liability because they wanted to maintain their focus on academics.

Responding to the settlement, Dartmouth College spokesperson Jana Barnello emphasized the institution’s commitment to providing financial aid based on individual needs. She noted that Dartmouth’s spending on financial aid has increased by 66% from 2014 to 2023, with 15% of the Class of 2027 receiving full-ride scholarships.