The Trump Administration’s Justice Department has launched an investigation into possible anti-trust violations among more than a half-dozen elite liberal arts colleges over their admissions policies.
The department notified an undetermined number of schools in writing in recent days to preserve all emails and written notifications formal or informal they may have had with other schools about students they have admitted for the coming academic year.
The schools include Pomona, Amherst, Wellesley, Williams, Grinnell and Middlebury Colleges and Wesleyan University, according to a Wall Street Journal account. (subscription)
The Justice probe, only the latest of several into the practices of institutions of higher education, appears aimed at possible collusion among the schools regarding their early admissions candidates.
Many selective colleges and universities admit around 40 percent of an incoming freshman class under early admission applications. These allow schools to skim off prime applicants before the main admissions rush and allows students to find out in advance about their acceptance, avoiding the anxiety of awaiting those official admission or rejection letters around this time of year.
Many of the early admissions programs, however, have a binding requirement that the student must attend if accepted and must withdraw all other school applications. The incentive is that acceptance rates are higher under the binding agreement. Some programs also forbid a prospective student from applying for early admission to more than one school.
The feds want to examine all communications with other schools regarding names of early admission applicants and consultations, apparently suspecting they exchange names to enforce their admission requirements.
One New England admissions dean whose school received the Justice letter told the Journal they do, in fact, exchange applicant names, application ID number and home state with about 20 other schools to screen students who violate the rules, which he said is rare.
In November, Justice opened another investigation into Harvard University’s admissions practices using race. A 2014 federal civil rights suit alleges Harvard intentionally discriminates against Asian-American students by limiting the number admitted.