DOJ targets elite universities in early admissions probe: report

DOJ targets elite universities in early admissions probe: report
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The Justice Department (DOJ) has sent letters to top U.S. universities as it probes whether some schools violated antitrust laws by sharing information to aid in the enforcement of their early decision policies, according to news reports.

The Wall Street Journal reports that the DOJ sent letters to Wesleyan University, Middlebury College, Amherst College, and Grinnell College, as well as several other liberal arts universities with high entrance requirements, asking the schools to preserve communications related to the swapping of names of accepted students.

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Typically, the rules governing early decision policies force a student to commit to submitting one early decision application to their top choice. The Justice Department is probing whether universities violated the law by sharing names of early-decision students to determine whether those same students made multiple early decision applications.

Grinnell College told NPR it had received a letter, while Amherst did not confirm the letter but said it was "fully cooperating" with the Justice Department.

The letter, obtained by The Washington Post, states that the agency "has opened an investigation into a potential agreement between colleges relating to their Early Decision practices."

Education experts say that while abuse of early decision policies has long been an issue for higher education, this marks the first time a federal antitrust investigation has touched the topic.

"Equity considerations related to early decision have long been a concern within higher education, but this is the first time in my memory that the issue has come up in the context of antitrust concerns," American Council on Education senior vice president Terry Hartle told Inside Higher Ed.

Dozens of American universities have early decision options, including some of the most selective schools in the country such as Johns Hopkins, Cornell and Dartmouth universities.