The Justice Department ought to have better things to do than badger private colleges about how they distribute student financial aid. Last week the department claimed a major victory against eight Ivy League colleges and universities after bludgeoning the schools into signing a consent decree in which they agreed to stop sharing information about how much financial aid they award to offset tuitions ranging from $18,000 a year upward.
Atty. Gen. Richard Thornburgh personally announced the "agreement" -- we put that word in quotes because the schools were facing a ruinous court battle with the government if they didn't knuckle under -- as a triumph of his department's "anti-trust" efforts. We put that last phrase in quotes, too, because Thornburgh would have us believe the colleges were behaving like automakers or soap manufacturers who secretly collude to gouge unsuspecting consumers.
In fact, the schools had been openly sharing such information for years. What's more, they made a point of telling applicants exactly what they were doing and why. They argued, persuasively, that such sharing enabled them to give scholarships based solely on need, while discouraging students from choosing one school over another purely on the basis of the amount awarded.