Antitrust Settlement Reached in College Recruiting Case
On December 12, 2019, the Antitrust Division of the Department of Justice filed an antitrust case and simultaneous settlement against the National Association for College Admission Counseling (NACAC). The complaint alleged that NACAC established and enforced illegal restraints on the ways that colleges compete in the recruiting of students.
Under the proposed consent decree, NACAC agreed to remove rules regarding recruitment of 1) transfer students from other schools; 2) prospective incoming freshmen after May 1st, and 3) prospective Early Decision applicants. NACAC would be enjoined from establishing or enforcing any similar rule in the future.
Like all antitrust decrees, the proposed settlement is subject to a Tunney Act public comment hearing and then fairness review by the district court.
The lawsuit and settlement is somewhat anti-climactic. Faced with the investigation that led to the lawsuit, the NACAC members had already voted to remove the rules last September. The settlement will close the door to any similar rules returning.
The case underscores the increasing acceptance that college admissions and athletic recruitment are commercial activities subject to antitrust standards.