Colleges can be seen as competitive businesses whose consumers deserve the same legal protection as any others. The Justice Department charged nine prestigious universities for conspiring to restrain price competition on financial aid to students. The eight known as the Ivy League (Brown, Columbia, Cornell, Dartmouth, Harvard, Pennsylvania, Princeton and Yale) consented to quit the practice in return for dropping the charge. The ninth, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, refuses to quit anything and girds for trial.
As a result, the Ivy League schools will no longer participate in the 23-college "Overlap Group." This group met every spring and fixed the financial aid that all would offer to students applying to more than one of these schools. Prospective students were forced to choose among those colleges on the basis of academics, social life or something other than aid. They could get the schools into a bidding war only by applying outside the group. Under fire, the Overlap Group did not meet this spring. Without the Ivy League, it probably cannot function.
But that is not all the Ivy eight agreed to end. They pledged not to swap other information of a pricing nature, such as intentions on tuition and salaries. And here the investigation launched by Attorney General Dick Thornburgh two years ago is heading into poor visibility.