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16 top colleges sued for alleged violation of federal antitrust laws by colluding on their financial-aid practices

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(CNN) — Sixteen top US universities, including Duke, Vanderbilt and Northwestern, are being sued by five former students claiming those schools may be involved in antitrust violations in the way those institutions worked together in determining financial aid awards for students, according to the lawsuit filed in a US District Court in Illinois.

The complaint, which was filed Sunday, alleges that these private national universities have “participated in a price-fixing cartel that is designed to reduce or eliminate financial aid as a locus of competition, and that in fact has artificially inflated the net price of attendance for students receiving financial aid.”

The suit is asking for class-action status to cover any US citizen or permanent resident who paid tuition, room, or board at these institutions within varying timeframes from 2003 to the present. The plaintiffs want a permanent injunction against this alleged conspiracy, and that they are also seeking restitution and damages to be determined in court.

The suit centers around the application of Section 568 of the Improving America’s Schools Act of 1994, which allows institutions to collaborate on financial aid formulas if they don’t consider the student’s financial need in admission decisions.

The lawsuit alleges nine schools (Columbia, Dartmouth, Duke, Georgetown, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Northwestern, Notre Dame, the University of Pennsylvania and Vanderbilt) have “made admissions decisions with regard to the financial circumstances of students and their families, ” thereby disfavoring students who need financial aid.”

It claims seven other colleges mentioned in the suit (Brown, the California Institute of Technology, Chicago, Cornell, Emory, Rice and Yale) “may or may not have adhered to need-blind admissions policies, but they nonetheless conspired with the other Defendants.”

“All Defendants, in turn, have conspired to reduce the amount of financial aid they provide to admitted students,” the complaint read.

CNN reached out to all 16 colleges in the lawsuit for a response. Yale University told CNN in an email that “Yale’s financial aid policy is 100% compliant with all applicable laws.” In response to CNN’s request for comment, the California Institute of Technology said, “Caltech is currently reviewing the lawsuit and cannot comment on the specific allegations. We have confidence, however, in our financial aid practices.”

Massachusetts Institute of Technology also responded, saying, “MIT is reviewing the filing and will respond in court in due time.”

The suit alleges the colleges fixed prices through a formula that was based on a shared methodology, a “set of common standards for determining the family’s ability to pay for college.”

“This methodology assesses the income and assets of a given financial-aid applicant and their family to determine the applicant’s ability to pay and thus the financial contribution that the applicant and their family is expected to make. The applicant’s assessed ability to pay therefore is a key determinant in the net price of attendance,” according to the complaint.

“Under a true need-blind admissions system, all students would be admitted without regard to the financial circumstances of the student or student’s family,” the complaint read.

The-CNN-Wire™ & © 2021 Cable News Network, Inc., a Time Warner Company. All rights reserved.

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US draws down Ukraine embassy presence as war fears mount

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WASHINGTON (AP) — The State Department on Sunday ordered the families of all American personnel at the U.S. Embassy in Ukraine to leave the country amid heightened fears of a Russian invasion.

The department told the dependents of staffers at the U.S. Embassy in Kyiv that they must leave the country. It also said that non-essential embassy staff could leave Ukraine at government expense.

The move came amid rising tensions about Russia’s military buildup on the Ukraine border that were not eased during talks Friday between Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov in Geneva.

State Department officials stressed the Kyiv embassy will remain open and that the announcement does not constitute an evacuation. The move had been under consideration for some time and does not reflect an easing of U.S. support for Ukraine, the officials said.

In a statement, the State Department noted recent reports that Russia was planning significant military action against Ukraine. However, the Russian Foreign Ministry has accused NATO countries of escalating tensions around Ukraine with disinformation.

The State Department added: “The security conditions, particularly along Ukraine’s borders, in Russia-occupied Crimea, and in Russia-controlled eastern Ukraine, are unpredictable and can deteriorate with little notice. Demonstrations, which have turned violent at times, regularly occur throughout Ukraine, including in Kyiv.”

Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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Miami-bound Crystal Symphony changes course, docks in Bimini after US judge orders seizure

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MIAMI (AP) — A cruise ship that was supposed to dock in Miami has instead sailed to the Bahamas, after a U.S. judge granted an order to seize the vessel as part of a lawsuit over millions of dollars in unpaid fuel.

Cruise trackers show Crystal Symphony currently docked in the Bahamian island of Bimini.

Passengers were taken by ferry to Port Everglades in Fort Lauderdale on Sunday.

“We all feel we were abducted by luxurious pirates!” passenger Stephen Heard Fales posted on Facebook.

It was unclear how many passengers were aboard, with one news outlet reporting 300 and another, 700. According to the company website, the vessel can carry up to 848 passengers.

The ship was scheduled to arrive in Miami on Saturday. But a federal judge in Miami issued an arrest warrant for the ship Thursday, a maritime practice where a U.S. Marshal goes aboard a vessel and takes charge of it once it enters U.S. waters.

Passengers and entertainers said on social media they were surprised to find out about the legal case. One guest posted a letter on Facebook from Crystal Cruises Management that said the change in itinerary was due to “non-technical operational issues.”

The lawsuit was filed in a Miami federal court by Peninsula Petroleum Far East against the ship under a maritime procedure that allows actions against vessels for unpaid debts. The complaint says Crystal Symphony was chartered or managed by Crystal Cruises and Star Cruises, which are both sued for breach of contract for allegedly owing $4.6 million in fuel.

Crystal Cruises announced earlier this week that it was suspending operations through late April. Besides Crystal Symphony, it has two other ships currently cruising, which end their voyages on Jan. 30 in Aruba and on Feb. 4 in Argentina.

“Suspending operations will provide Crystal’s management team with an opportunity to evaluate the current state of business and examine various options moving forward,” the company said in a statement earlier this week.

Copyright 2021 Sunbeam Television Corp. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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Federal Government’s N95 Masks Distribution Starts Monday

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MIAMI (CBSMiami) – Starting Monday, courtesy of the federal government, you’ll be able to get your hands on an N95 mask for free.

The Biden administration announced a week ago that 400 million masks were being shipped to pharmacies and community health centers nationwide.

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Americans can get up to three N95s free of charge. However, only adult-sized N95s are expected be available when the distribution begins.

The expectation is that most pharmacies that are part of the Federal Retail Pharmacy Program for COVID-19 vaccines will participate in the mask distribution.

In Florida, this would mean:

  • CVS Health
  • Walgreens
  • Publix
  • Winn-Dixie
  • Fresco y Más
  • Harveys Supermarket
  • Walmart
  • Sam’s Club
  • Costco
  • Kroger

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CBS4 news partner the Miami Herald was able to confirm Winn-Dixie, Fresco y Más and Harveys Supermarket pharmacies are participating. Walgreens and CVS told the Miami Herald they plan to have free N95s in the coming weeks.

As for a participating community health center, the Health Resources and Services Administration has created an online locator tool.

The Florida Association of Community Health Centers also has it’s own locator website.

Kenneth Ray swears by the N95 masks after working in the mechanical insulation field and being exposed to asbestos and other toxins.

MORE NEWS: Doctors Working To Get Out Word On How Americans Can Protect Themselves Against Diabetes

“Whatever we can do to control the spread, it’s good for everyone,” he said.

CBSMiami.com Team

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