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Keep the Overlap Group

Keep the

Overlap Group

When the Justice Department first took steps against the Overlap Group -- an association of several dozen prestigious universities, including the members of the Ivy League and MIT -- it made the group sound like a secretive and elitist club, working against the common good.

Indeed, it seemed that way for quite some time. The group met every April to share financial aid information about students admitted to its member schools. With the tuitions at major American universities rising faster than the pace of inflation, who could blame the Justice Department for assuming that the schools were more interested in raising tuitions than giving students increased latitude in choosing a school?

The Justice Department was wrong. According to a report in last week's Chronicle of Higher Education, many students entering college this fall were forced to choose a school based more on the cost to their families than the schools' relative merits. One of the schools that students claimed to have turned down for financial reasons was MIT; there were probably others who came to MIT instead of other universities for the same reason.

Perhaps, as the Justice Department is claiming, the Overlap Group is violating the letter of the Sullivan Anti-trust Act, but it is certainly not violating the spirit. The schools have proven that even when given the power to raise tuitions -- and they certainly could have done that during the years that they met -- they acted within the public interest. MIT is doing the right thing as the only Overlap Group university to continue to fight against the Justice Department's ruling.

Students already have enough factors to consider when choosing a school. Making financial aid yet another consideration is a disservice to the schools and to those who might attend them. The Overlap Group might not have been perfect, but the situation was much better before the government decided to intervene.

MIT is right to stand its ground against the Justice Department, and we applaud its efforts to reverse the decision.