Lawsuit filed against 16 top universities claims the schools used unfair financial aid practices

A complaint filed in Illinois on Sunday alleges sixteen of the top universities in the country conspired to limit financial aid to students.

The lawsuit names Georgetown University, Columbia University, Brown University, California Institute of Technology, and more. The complaint claims the schools used a common methodology to prevent financial aid dollars from going to accepted students, mostly from middle class and working-class families. 

The suit estimates about 170,000 students over the last eighteen years were affected by the scheme. Attorneys for the former students of the schools, who filed the suit, say the schools misused a law that allows colleges and universities to come up with shared financial aid distribution guidelines for admitted students, but only if they engaged in a needs-blind approach to their decisions about the aid.

The prosecuting attorneys say several of the schools named still favor the wealthy, distributing aid to students whose parents have previously donated to the school or may make substantial donations in the future.

Some of the schools have responded to the suit, denying the claims. In an email to the Washington Post this week, Yale spokeswoman Karen Peart wrote, “Yale’s financial aid policy is 100% compliant with all applicable laws.”

A spokesman for Brown University, Brian E. Clarke, also wrote to the Post, saying, “Based on a preliminary review, the complaint against Brown has no merit and Brown is prepared to mount a strong effort to make this clear.” The suit seeks an end to the unfair financial aid practices, and compensation for all the affected students over the last eighteen years.

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