MIT Wins Reversal Of Aid Case

Rudenstine Praises Ruling

MIT has won a round in its court battle to prove that sharing information about financial aid with the Ivy League schools should not be outlawed as an antitrust violation.

On Friday, a federal appeals court overturned a district court ruling that the practice, known as overlap, violated the Sherman Antitrust Act, remanding the case back to the lower court for further examination.

Harvard President Neil L. Rudenstine yesterday called the ruling "an enlightened decision." Two years ago, Harvard and the other seven Ivy League schools signed a consent decree with the Justice Department agreeing to stop sharing information, but MIT took the issue to court.

Charles M. Vest, president of MIT, said in a statement this weekend that he looks forward to an eventual final ruling in MIT's favor.

"This is a significant step towards equal opportunity for all students to attend the college of their choice," he said. "I am confident that the interests of needy students and their families will eventually prevail."


The earlier court decision was for the Justice Department, which argued that the process of finan- cial aid overlap was a violation of the ShermanAntitrust Act. Under the overlap process, theeight Ivy League schools and MIT would meet eachyear to discuss prospective students who had beenadmitted to more than one of the schools andcollectively set financial aid awards for them.

The appeals court, in turn, decided that theschools' nonprofit status and advancement ofsocial benefit may affect whether overlap violatesthe Sherman Act.

"It's very good that the court has been willingto widen its angle of vision," Rudenstine saidyesterday. "I think that it's clearly good."

Thane D. Scott, MIT's attorney, originallyargued that the practice of overlap was sociallybeneficial, since it allowed more money to beallotted for poor students and made education moreaccessible in general.

While U.S. District Court Judge Louis C.Bechtle dismissed these arguments in his judgementagainst MIT, the higher court mandated thathearings must be held on these issues to see ifregulating competition in this case might actuallyenhance it, thus exempting it from the ShermanAct.

Harvard has made no movement to alter itspolicy of need-blind admissions since the end ofoverlap, and Rudenstine said the University hasnot had to make any changes to adjust. "It's morea question of what happens to the whole system,"he said. "We're more worried about the totalenvironment and future repercussions."

But Rudenstine said that he does not expect anyquick action or final decisions in the case. "Thisopens the case again, it makes it a little bitmore laborious," he said. "I imagine we're in forquite a long haul."

For now, Harvard will not involve itself in theoverlap dispute, according to Rudenstine.

"It's clear that it's going to take a longtime," he said. "I think we have our own course tochart and that we will carry on with our ownpolicy.

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