New England Colleges Named in U.S. Antitrust Investigation

DC Shuttle …

Universities Targeted by Department of Justice in Antitrust Probe on Early-Decision Policies. The U.S. Department of Justice has launched an investigation into antitrust violations related to early-decision college admissions. According to the Wall Street Journal, the Justice Department has sent letters to top U.S. universities notifying them of the investigation. The letter also asks institutions to preserve emails and messages detailing arrangements pertaining to sharing names of admitted students with other schools and the use of the accepted students information. The Boston Globe, reported that several elite New England institutions, including Amherst College, Middlebury College, Wellesley College, Williams College and Tufts University, received such letters. Under the early decision process, students apply to schools in November and are notified of acceptance in December. Students are not supposed to apply for early decision to more than one school, but some do. It appears that the focus of the investigation is whether colleges with early-decision programs are sharing information about admitted applicants with other colleges as a way to enforce the requirement that early-decision applicants attend institutions that admit them.

Senate Democrats Call for Scrutiny of For-Profit Conversions. A group of Democratic senators led by Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) sent a letter to IRS Acting Commissioner David Kautter, urging the IRS to “closely scrutinize” applications from for-profit colleges that are seeking to convert to nonprofit entities amid a recent spike in such transactions. Senators Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) and Bernie Sanders (I-VT) were among the signers. In the letter, the senators raise concerns that the recent attempts by for-profit colleges to convert to nonprofit organizations with tax-exempt status may violate federal tax law. The transactions typically require the approval of the IRS, the Department of Education and accreditors as well as state regulators. Under President Barack Obama, the Education Department had sought to crack down on the practice, arguing that some for-profit schools were seeking to convert to nonprofit schools to skirt federal regulations. Under U.S.Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos, the department has been more lenient in approving the conversions. In January, Warren and several other Senate democrats wrote to the National Advisory Committee on Institutional Quality and Integrity, urging it to add the issue to its May agenda. Read more in Politico.

House Committee Looks into Research Espionage. The House Committee of Science, Space and Technology’s Subcommittee on Oversight and Subcommittee on Research and Technology held a joint hearing on espionage targeting American research and development. Subcommittee members heard from a panel of experts on attempts by foreign nations to spy on and steal federally funded research on college campuses. The hearing comes following comments in February from FBI Director Christopher Wray about counterintelligence risks posed by certain international students and what he described as a “level of naivety on the part of the academic sector.” One witness, the journalist Daniel Golden, echoed that sentiment, describing the “small but significant percentage of international students and faculty [who] come to help their countries gain recruits for clandestine operations, insights into U.S. government plans and access to sensitive military and civilian research.” The increased Congressional attention to this issue also comes on the heels of a Department of Justice bust of an Iranian hacking ring that targeted more than 100 American universities. Read more in Inside Higher Ed and Politico.

Education Policy Representatives Convene at Reagan Education Summit. The Ronald Reagan Presidential Foundation and Institute held its RISE 2018 education summit on April 12, convening a group of high profile education policy experts, including current U.S. Education Secretary DeVos and former education secretaries John B. King Jr., Arne Duncan, Margaret Spellings, Rod Paige and Bill Bennett. Additionally, congressional education leaders including Senate Committee on Health, Education Labor & Pensions Chair Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-TN) and Ranking Member Patty Murray (D-WA) and House Education & Workforce Committee Chair Virginia Foxx (R-NC). More details on the event can be found here.

Civil Rights Groups Concerned with ESSA Plan Approvals. Seventeen civil rights groups, including the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, the NAACP, and the Southern Poverty Law Center, sent a letter to the leaders of the House and Senate education committees, expressing concerns with the U.S. Department of Education’s approval process of state plans under the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). Specifically, the letter claims that Education Secretary DeVos is approving state plans that lump together the performance of groups of historically disadvantaged students for accountability purposes when the law requires states to consider the performance of each group individually. The plans detail how states will hold schools accountable for student learning and progress. Advocates are concerned that approved states like Maryland and New Mexico are excluding the performance of individual groups of students when it comes to school ratings which may violate ESSA. So far, DeVos has approved plans for 37 states, Washington, D.C., and Puerto Rico. DeVos has previously said she’ll approve plans that comply with ESSA and that there have been no issues with compliance when it comes to states that have already been approved. Read more in Politico.

We publish the DC Shuttle each week featuring higher ed news from Washington collected by the New England Council, of which NEBHE is a member. This edition is drawn from the Higher Education Update in the Council’s Weekly Washington Report of April 16, 2018. For more information, please visit:



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