On Thursday, U.S. Sen. J.D. Vance (R-OH) asked the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to investigate whether elite universities are colluding on admissions policies in the wake of the Supreme Court’s ban on affirmative action.
In a letter to FTC Chair Lina Kahn, Vance noted that he sent letters to 10 of the nation’s most elite colleges — the Ivy League and Oberlin and Kenyon — requesting information about the changes to their admissions policies due to the ruling. He received strikingly similar responses from each school, including that they were all sent on the same day, were nearly the same length, and used more or less identical phrasing.
Vance said he found it “hard to believe that the schools responding to my letter could achieve such remarkable parallels in the absence of coordination or collusion.” He also accused the colleges of colluding on admissions policies in order to skirt the court’s ruling.
“Schools that maintain regular communication and profess shared interests may be tempted to jointly adopt new and experimental policies, such as preferences for low-income students, assured in the knowledge that their competitors will not do otherwise,” said Vance in his letter.
The Justice Department has already brought a lawsuit against 17 colleges for alleged price-fixing in their financial aid policies, and Vance believes that the ban on affirmative action could lead to similar issues. He argued that antitrust law should be enforced, noting that “like regular corporations, colleges cannot collude in ways that dampen competition and harm consumers.”
The letter calls upon the FTC to investigate the universities for collusive behavior, and urged the commission to use its subpoena power to obtain information from the schools regarding their communications with each other.
“Coordinating the response to a Senator’s letter is one thing,” Vance wrote. “Coordinating admissions policies in the wake of the Harvard College decision is quite another.”
None of the nine colleges responded to requests for comment. However, the letter sent out by Vance made his point clear, stating “This case and others appear to demonstrate that coordination among these institutions is rampant.”
Although this investigation is still in its early stages, the FTC is now looking into the matter. If the schools are found to have coordinated their admissions policies in a way that harms consumers, they could face major antitrust penalties. It remains to be seen how this investigation turns out, but one thing is clear: this is an issue that has the attention of the political establishment.