Cornell 1 of 16 elite schools named in lawsuit alleging price-fixing scheme

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ROCHESTER, N.Y. (NBC News/WHEC) — Cornell University is one of 16 Ivy League and elite American universities getting sued in federal court over allegations that they conspired to eliminate competitive financial aid offers to students in a price-fixing scheme.

The suit, filed in an Illinois federal court Sunday by five former Vanderbilt, Northwestern and Duke University students, claims the universities conspired to artificially inflate the cost of attendance for all students receiving financial aid, leading to more than 170,000 financial-aid being overcharged by "at least hundreds of millions of dollars."

The lawsuit is demanding a class action jury trial and seeks compensation for people who received financial aid packages that did not fully cover the cost of tuition, room and board at the 16 schools.

It hinges on “Section 568” of a 1994 federal education law that allows "need-blind colleges and universities", defined as schools that don’t consider an applicant’s financial status while deciding admission, to ignore century-old antitrust laws and collaborate with their competitors.

Brown University, California Institute of Technology, University of Chicago, Columbia University, Dartmouth College, Duke University, Emory University, Georgetown University, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Northwestern University, University of Notre Dame, University of Pennsylvania, Rice University, Vanderbilt University and Yale University are the other defendants.

NBC News reached out to Cornell but it declined to comment.