New Cases and Developments

NACUA's Legal Resources staff summarizes current higher education cases and developments and provides the full text of selected cases to members. New cases and developments are archived here for up to 12 months.  Cases provided by Fastcase, Inc.

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Religious Discrimination; Accreditation; Discrimination, Accommodation, & Diversity; Authorizations & Regulations

Illinois Bible Colleges Association v. Lindsay Anderson (7th Cir. 2017)

Opinion and Order affirming the district court’s dismissal of Plaintiffs’ suit. Plaintiffs—two associations representing Bible Colleges, a group of Bible Colleges, and a college student attending a Bible College—alleged that the statutory accreditation requirements enforced by the Illinois Board of Higher Education (Board) violated their rights under the Establishment Clause, Free Exercise Clause, Equal Protection Clause, their right to free speech and association, and state law. Applying the Lemon test, the court found that the State’s accreditation standards did not violate the Establishment Clause because they were broadly applicable to all post-secondary institutions and furthered a secular state interest in maintaining standards for these institutions.  Plaintiff’s “as-applied” challenge failed because Plaintiffs never applied for certification, and thus the Court could not determine whether the accreditation statutes were applied in an unconstitutional manner. The court further found that the statutes were not religiously motivated in violation of the Free Exercise Clause because they target both religious and non-religious institutions. The court affirmed dismissal of Plaintiff’s remaining constitutional and state law claims. 


Avalos v. Board of Regents of New Mexico State University (N.M. App. July 26, 2017)

Opinion reversing the district court’s order and remanding with instructions to enter summary judgment in favor of the Board of Regents of New Mexico State University. When Doña Ana Community College's (DACC) associate's degree nursing program lost its accredited status, a group of students sued claiming breach of contract. As evidence of the contract, Plaintiffs presented their offer letters and written responses, the student handbook, and their signed student handbook acknowledgement forms. Under New Mexico court precedent, plaintiffs alleging breach of contract are required to demonstrate that the alleged terms created a reasonable expectation of contractual rights as measured by the “definiteness, specificity, or explicit nature of the representation at issue.” Applying this standard, the Appeals Court held that the offer letters, handbook, and acknowledgement forms did not constitute a valid written contract that obligated the Board to provide a nationally accredited education to Plaintiffs. 

Accreditation; Higher Education Opportunity Act; Authorizations & Regulations

Notice Soliciting Comments on Recognizing Accrediting Agencies (July 24, 2017)

Notice issued by the U.S. Department of Education Office of Postsecondary Education soliciting third-party comments on the performance of accrediting agencies undergoing review and evaluation. The National Advisory Committee on Institutional Quality and Integrity (NACIQI) will be reviewing and evaluating the accrediting agencies listed in the Notice for renewal of recognition and compliance with relevant regulations. Written comments concerning the recognition of a specific accrediting agency must be received by August 13, 2017.

Authorizations & Regulations; Accreditation

Notice of Request for Comments on Review of Accrediting Agencies (Feb. 13, 2017)

Notice published by the U.S. Department of Education requesting comments on Review of Accrediting Agencies. The notice invites third parties to submit comments regarding the performance of accrediting agencies, as required by the Higher Education Act of 1965.  Interested persons are invited to submit comments by March 12, 2017.

Accreditation; Authorizations & Regulations

Final Decision Withdrawing Recognition of the Accrediting Council for Independent Colleges and Schools (Dec. 12, 2016)

Final decision issued by the U.S. Department of Education withdrawing its recognition of the Accrediting Council for Independent Colleges and Schools (ACICS) as a recognized accrediting agency. ACICS was found to be noncompliant with a number of regulatory criteria and incapable of coming into compliance within the next year. However, although ACICS is no longer recognized, the Department is considering granting ACICS-accredited institutions provisional certification for continued participation in federal student aid programs for 18 months, thus allowing these institutions to seek accreditation from other, federally-recognized agencies. Institutions would have to comply with additional conditions—including additional oversight and transparency measures—before becoming eligible for provisional certification.  

Students; Admissions; Authorizations & Regulations; Accreditation

American Bar Association Council Notice of Probation and Specific Remedial Action for the Charlotte School of Law (Oct. 2016)

Notice of Probation and Specific Remedial Action regarding the admissions practices of the Charlotte School of Law was issued by the American Bar Association (ABA). The Council announced that it has placed the Law School on probation for failing to comply with ABA admissions standards that require institutions to admit only those applicants who are likely to graduate and pass the bar exam, and to maintain a rigorous program of legal education. In order to remedy the situation, the Law School must submit a written plan for bringing its admissions standards into compliance, supply the ABA with admissions data and methodology for the fall 2017 entering class, and advise its students of first-time North and South Carolina bar examinee passage rates of its graduates for the past six exam administrations.

Admissions; Students; Accreditation; Authorizations & Regulations

American Bar Association Council Notice of Censure and Specific Remedial Action for Valparaiso University School of Law (Oct. 2016)

Joint letter published by the Secretaries of Education, Agriculture, Housing, Labor, and Treasury containing summaries of how the alignment between provisions that exist within federal programs can be improved in order to increase college access and completion. The Secretaries thank institutions for their partnership in helping to ensure improved college access and completion, and call upon college and university leaders to review the summaries and identify additional ways that federal policies can help facilitate the implementation of the programs discussed. 

Authorizations & Regulations; Accreditation

In re Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges, Western Association of Schools and Colleges

Decision by Department of Education (Department) Acting Secretary John B. King on January 5, 2016. The Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges (ACCJC) appealed the Department's 2014 Decision Letter finding ACCJC noncompliant with certain criteria for recognition as an accreditor. The Secretary agreed with the 2014 Decision Letter's findings and ordered that it be adopted as the agency's Final Decision. As part of the order, ACCJC will continue to be recognized by the Department pending the submission of a compliance report within 12 months.