The Weber Arch and University Hall at Northwestern University. (Google Maps image)

Northwestern University is one of more than a dozen selective schools facing a lawsuit claiming they conspire to manipulate the admission system to hold down financial aid and benefit wealthy applicants

The suit was filed Sunday in federal court in Chicago.

It was first reported by Chicago Business.

The suit claims the schools — also including Notre Dame and the University of Chicago — have adopted a common formula for determining an applicant’s ability to pay, rather than trying to attract students with more generous aid offers.

The suit claims the schools also tilt the scales to favor children of donors.

It claims the practices narrow a critical pathway to upward mobility.

The suit seeks class action status. The plaintiff’s lawyers claim more than 170,000 former undergraduate students who received partial financial aid at the schools going back up to 18 years could become eligible to join the suit.

Representatives of Northwestern and several other schools named in the suit declined comment.

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

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