A Racket By Any Other Name: The College Cartel

Getting into an Ivy League school is the golden ticket, right? The prestige, the invaluable connections, the bragging rights – for decades these elite institutions have cast an irresistible spell on impressionable students and parents alike. But underneath all the glitz and glamor, these top-tier universities might actually be rigging the system against middle-class Americans.

Sahaj Sharda, a nonconforming Columbia Law student, is on a mission to expose the cold hard truth about the exclusive Ivy League club. The College Cartel – Sahaj’s new book – unravels the appalling practices these hyper-elite schools engage in to maintain their monopoly over prestigious higher education. And let’s just say, the extent of their collusion may shock you.


The Ivies are getting insanely rich off this education racket. Take the University of Pennsylvania for example. Its endowment exploded from $1.5 billion in 1994 to a mind-boggling $20.5 billion in 2021. That’s a 1301 percent increase. But is Penn using that small fortune to make education more accessible? Unfortunately not.

In fact, Penn and its Ivy League collaborators are deliberately keeping enrollment numbers low and rejection rates ridiculously high. In 1991, Penn accepted 47 percent of applicants. Today that figure is a lowly 6 percent. Cornell, Brown, Harvard, and others all follow a similar admissions strategy, creating the illusion of scarcity to further feed the frenzy surrounding coveted Ivy seats.

But why the artificial scarcity? If these schools really cared about providing world-class education, why turn away droves of bright young students year after year? Sahaj’s thesis is that the elite colleges do this to protect their cartel. By hoarding seats, the elites can continue to dictate exorbitant tuition fees. At the same time, they collude on financial aid policies to maximize revenue. It’s a bonafide racket. And if that’s not infuriating enough, the cartel also lobbies aggressively for special perks like subsidies and tax breaks. All while sitting on endowments larger than the GDPs of many countries.

In his crusading book, Sahaj exposes the conniving ploys these institutions use to bar entry to outsiders. The college cartel inhibits social mobility and entrenches inequality, as gatekeeping elites decide who gets to climb the ladder of success.


It’s time to dismantle this crooked cabal’s monopoly over higher education, and Sahaj’s book offers solutions to break up the college cartel. For example, he leans into the power of antitrust law to break up the collusive arrangements between the elite colleges. He further advocates a breakup of endowments. While public support for an elite college breakup is still growing, there seems to be something that’s becoming definitively clear. Namely, we need a new campaign to build a system that finally provides equal opportunity to gifted, hardworking students regardless of pedigree.

To learn more you can connect with Sahaj Sharda on Twitter.

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