Private Schools and Antitrust Laws

Dr. Ari Betof is the president and owner of Organizational Sustainability Consulting. An advisor to senior professionals in education and the nonprofit sector, Dr. Ari Betof provides consultancy services on governance and operations issues, such as his recent work with NJAIS on antitrust laws.

Antitrust laws apply to educational nonprofits just as they apply to businesses but with some exceptions. Recently, there has been a renewed focus on antitrust law violations in education, especially regarding independent schools and private colleges. These investigations focus on agreements between institutions to fix tuition prices, boycott competitors or suppliers, divvy up markets, or share data outside the allowed framework.

However, this heightened attention should not scare colleges, universities, and independent schools into isolation. Engagement among educational institutions, when done correctly and within the law, builds synergy and can boost performance that is good for students as customers and the educational institutions.

Antitrust laws, therefore, should not be used to prevent or punish appropriate engagement. A healthy balance that fosters free-market competition and allows value-added collaborations should be encouraged.

This can be achieved by training trustees and staff members on antitrust laws. In particular, the training should explain which interactions are proper and which are not.

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