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Early-Decision Admissions as an Antitrust Violation? Justice Dept. Investigating

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The U.S. Department of Justice is investigating whether colleges violate federal antitrust laws when they share information about students who have been accepted for admission in their early-decision programs, according to Inside Higher Ed.

The media outlet reports that the Justice Department sent letters to a number of colleges and universities late last week, asking them to preserve any documents that might pertain to communication among colleges about the students admitted through the early-decision process.

When students apply early-decision, they are required to attend the institution that accepts them. Inside Higher Ed obtained the letter Justice sent to colleges, in which the agency says it is investigating "a potential agreement between colleges relating to their early-decision practices." 

The focus of the federal investigation "appears to be 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," Inside Higher Ed says.

Among the documents Justice is asking colleges to preserve are "agreements, both formal and informal, to exchange or otherwise disclose the identities of accepted students with persons at other colleges or universities;" communications among institutions about accepted students, and communications in which the identities of accepted students are shared; and records of actions taken or decisions made that are based entirely or partially on information received from another college or university about the identities of accepted students, according to Inside Higher Ed.

Several admissions officials at institutions with early-decision programs told Inside Higher Ed that they don't share any information.

The Justice Department is also investigating whether the ethics code of a national group that represents college counselors violates federal antitrust law. That probe, into the National Association for College Admission Counseling, was disclosed in January.

The Department is also investigating Harvard's use of race in admissions.

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