Duke to pay $24 million to settle financial aid antitrust lawsuit, denies allegations of wrongdoing

<p>The Karsh Office of Undergraduate Financial Support.</p>

The Karsh Office of Undergraduate Financial Support.

Duke will pay $24 million to settle a class action lawsuit alleging that the University, along with 16 other elite institutions, illegally practiced need-aware admissions.

According to a court filing Tuesday, Duke joined Brown, Emory, Columbia and Yale in paying a total of $104.5 million to settle their respective parts of the lawsuit. The University denies any allegations of wrongdoing.

“Duke denies all the allegations of wrongdoing and claims of liability in this case. We are settling this case to avoid the wasteful cost and inconvenience of prolonged litigation,” wrote Frank Tramble, vice president for communications, marketing and public affairs, in a Wednesday morning statement to The Chronicle.

Along with Duke, the four other universities that were part of the court filing also denied wrongdoing.

Elite institutions like Duke were exempt from federal antitrust laws under Section 568 of the Improving America’s Schools Act of 1994 when they shared formulas for measuring the financial need of prospective applicants, as long as their admissions practices didn’t take financial need into account. 

The lawsuit, filed in January 2022, alleged that members of the 568 Presidents Group, a collection of highly-ranked colleges and universities that shared formulas under the exemptions provided by Section 568, practiced need-aware admissions and colluded to reduce the amount of financial aid distributed to students. 

Plaintiffs claimed that Duke could have paid for students’ annual tuition, room, board and fees if it did not collude with other universities on the “Consensus Approach,” a shared set of standards used to determine families’ financial need. 

Duke became a member of the 568 Presidents Group, also known as the 568 Cartel, in 1998, and remained so until the cartel disbanded on Nov. 4, 2022 after the lawsuit was filed. Section 568 expired on Sept. 30, 2022.

Now, a total of eight out of the initial 17 defendants have agreed to settlements. 

The University of Chicago and Vanderbilt, both previously members of the 568 Cartel, settled their parts of the case in 2023. In a recent financial statement, Rice also agreed to settle its part of the lawsuit.

“We remain committed to providing equitable access to a Duke education and ensuring students have the resources they need to truly thrive while here at Duke,” Tramble wrote.

If the settlements are approved by the court, claimants who submit valid and timely claim forms are estimated to receive about $750. The claim form will be posted on the settlement's website and available by calling the toll-free number (833) 585-3338.

Editor's note: This article was updated Wednesday evening with information about how to claim the settlement. 

Adway S. Wadekar profile
Adway S. Wadekar | News Editor

Adway S. Wadekar is a Trinity junior and former news editor of The Chronicle's 119th volume.

Audrey Wang profile
Audrey Wang | Data Editor

Audrey Wang is a Trinity senior and data editor of The Chronicle's 120th volume. She was previously editor-in-chief for Volume 119.


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