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.