A class action lawsuit filed this week accuses more than a dozen of the nation’s most prestigious universities — including the University of Notre Dame —  of colluding to limit the amount of financial aid given to students and favoring wealthy applicants in the admissions process.

The suit, filed in federal court in Illinois, claims 16 of the country’s private, elite universities violate anti-trust laws by using a common methodology to calculate financial aid for applicants. This practice, the suit alleges, effectively fixes and artificially inflates the price of attending most top colleges.

The complaint refers to the universities involved as a “cartel” and calls them “gatekeepers to the American Dream.” The schools’ “misconduct is therefore particularly egregious because it has narrowed a critical pathway to upward mobility that admission to their institutions represents,” the suit says.

In addition to Notre Dame, the universities named in the complaint are: Georgetown Columbia, Cal Tech, Northwestern, Brown, the University of Chicago, Cornell, Yale, Dartmouth, the University of Pennsylvania, Duke, Emory, Vanderbilt, MIT and Rice.  

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A group of recent graduates from Northwestern, Vanderbilt and Duke are the plaintiffs, though the lawsuit is a class action litigation, meaning those who attended one of the schools between 2003 and the present would be eligible to participate. The plaintiffs are being represented by a group of national law firms who specialize in commercial and class action litigation.

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