PROVIDENCE, R.I. [Brown University] — Brown University has reached an agreement to resolve claims filed in a federal antitrust lawsuit that named Brown as one of 17 universities that participated in the 568 Presidents Group, a consortium of higher education institutions committed to serving the financial aid needs of students and their families. The University maintains that the claims have no merit but determined that ongoing litigation would divert significant resources from Brown’s focus on its core priorities.
The plaintiffs in Carbone et. al. v. Brown University et. al., who are seeking to represent a class of current and former financial aid recipients at the defendant universities, alleged that the institutions exchanged information about their respective financial aid policies and practices, including through their participation in the 568 Presidents Group, and agreed to use a common method to evaluate the financial need of students and their families. The plaintiffs claim that the alleged agreement to use a common method violated antitrust laws and had the effect of suppressing the amount of financial aid awarded to students.
Brown denies these allegations and has agreed to resolve the litigation on the express condition that the settlement includes no admission of wrongdoing. The University’s participation in the 568 Presidents Group, which Brown ended in 2012, was lawful and consistent with the best interests of students at all times, said Brown spokesperson Brian E. Clark.
“Throughout our limited participation in the group and at all times after we withdrew, Brown has awarded its financial aid exclusively on the basis of student and family financial need,” Clark said. “We have and continue to make financial aid decisions independently and in alignment with our own institutional methodologies for determining need. And we meet full demonstrated financial need so that no student’s family socioeconomic circumstances prevent them from accessing the benefits of a Brown education.”
In exchange for a final judgment resolving all of the claims brought against Brown, the University has agreed to contribute $19.5 million to a settlement fund that will be distributed to eligible current and former students from the 17 defendant institutions, in accordance with a plan that will be submitted for court approval. Any funds remaining after distribution to class members are expected to be given to charitable nonprofit organizations that promote access to higher education for disadvantaged students and families.
Clark emphasized that the University would have been successful in defending the litigation. The agreement reached to resolve the claims states explicitly that Brown denies violating antitrust laws or taking any other improper action in making financial aid awards.
“We vehemently believe that the claims had no merit, but given the time and financial resources required to take this case to trial, we determined that our resources are better spent resolving this matter and supporting the education of our students,” Clark said. “We’ll continue our commitment to meeting the full financial need of all our students and to continually building upon the generous financial aid and access initiatives in place already.”
From 2003 to 2012, Brown participated in the 568 Presidents Group to learn about ways to expand financial support for students and families. At all times before, during and after its participation, Brown made financial aid decisions independently guided by its own institutional methodologies.
Brown’s agreement to resolve the claims is subject to the court’s approval and includes the parties’ proposals for formally notifying students who are potentially eligible for proceeds from the settlement, a process for eligible students to submit any objections they may have to the proposed settlement, and a schedule for any hearings the court may require as it considers approval of the settlement and final judgment in accordance with its terms.