Federal probe over early decision admission involves Amherst College

  • Amherst College

Published: 4/11/2018 11:07:45 PM

AMHERST — Amherst College is one of several elite liberal arts schools that are reportedly the targets of a federal probe into possible antitrust violations related to the school’s early decision admissions process, according to news reports.

The news, which was first reported in the trade publication Inside Higher Ed, comes after the Justice Department reportedly sent letters to Amherst and other colleges including Wellesley College, Wesleyan University, Williams College and Middlebury College, informing them of an investigation.

“In a letter sent last week, the department asked several colleges and universities to preserve all communication with officials at other schools that includes agreements to share or exchange the identities and admissions records of accepted students, and any records indicating actions taken or decisions made based on the information received about the applicants,” The New York Times, which obtained the letter, reported on Tuesday.

Amherst College Chief Communications Officer Sandy Genelius confirmed via email that the college had been contacted by the Department of Justice, and said the college is “fully cooperating with their request for information.”

“We understand from reporting that we are among multiple colleges contacted,” Genelius wrote. “We cannot comment further at this time.”

A Justice Department spokeswoman did not respond to request for comment on the investigation and letters reportedly sent to the schools.

“The focus of the 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 reported on Monday.

That Inside Higher Ed report refers to a paraphrasing of Katharine Fretwell — dean of admission and financial aid at Amherst College — in a 2016 U.S. & World News Report article titled

“[Fretwell] says her school and about 30 other colleges share lists of students admitted through early decision,” that article reads. “And Fretwell says she’d likely also share the names of students who were admitted via early decision, but who are not attending for financial aid and other reasons.”

Genelius did not provide further comment when asked about that reporting.

Dusty Christensen can be reached at dchristensen@gazettenet.com.

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