“Courts are considering challenges to race-conscious admissions at military academies, key higher education regulations and the DACA program.”
Why this is important: Higher education faced significant legal challenges in 2023, marked by the landmark U.S. Supreme Court ruling against race-conscious admissions. As we step into 2024, the legal landscape remains turbulent, with several lawsuits poised to impact colleges and universities across the country.
Students for Fair Admissions v. U.S. Military Academy at West Point:
Following their success in challenging race-conscious admissions practices in universities, Students for Fair Admissions (SFFA) has shifted its focus to military academies. The U.S. Supreme Court exempted military academies from its decision last June, acknowledging their “potentially distinct interests.” SFFA has since sued the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, arguing it has no justification for using race-based admissions, now deemed unconstitutional for other colleges. The legal battle is ongoing, with SFFA also targeting the U.S. Naval Academy over similar admissions practices.
Federal Trade Commission v. Grand Canyon Education:
In December, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) filed a lawsuit against Grand Canyon University and its educational services provider that delivers marketing, recruitment and student counseling services, alleging the school deceived students about the cost of its doctoral programs and misrepresented itself as a non-profit institution. The legal scrutiny intensifies the university’s challenges, as it faces a significant fine from the U.S. Department of Education relating to similar allegations about its doctoral programs and an ongoing legal battle with the Education Department about its treatment as a for-profit institution for Title IV federal financial aid purposes.
Career Colleges and Schools of Texas v. U.S. Department of Education:
Representing for-profit institutions in the state, Career Colleges and Schools of Texas brought a lawsuit that temporarily blocked the Biden administration’s new borrower defense rules. The group argues the administration aims for mass loan forgiveness while making colleges bear the cost. Disputes over the Education Department’s authority to seek recoupment from colleges for discharged loans further complicate the legal battle, highlighting the ongoing struggle between for-profit institutions and regulatory changes.
American Association of Cosmetology Schools v. U.S. Department of Education:
The American Association of Cosmetology Schools initiated a lawsuit against the Education Department over its new gainful employment rule. Set to take effect in July, the rule requires career education programs to demonstrate graduates’ ability to repay loans and earn more than those with only a high school degree. The Association contends the rule uses flawed metrics, particularly for tipped workers like beauticians, potentially leading to unfair penalties for cosmetology schools.
State of Texas v. USA:
In a pivotal October ruling, a federal judge declared Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) unlawful, triggering an appeal from the Biden administration. At this time, the federal government is able to process renewals, but cannot accept new applications. Meanwhile, the fate of the DACA program, shielding undocumented immigrants from deportation, hangs in the balance. With the U.S. Supreme Court’s involvement likely, this lawsuit echoes previous legal battles over DACA’s existence and highlights the ongoing uncertainty surrounding immigration policies affecting students and aspiring professionals.
These lawsuits reflect the complex intersection of education, law, and policy, underscoring the ongoing challenges faced by colleges and universities as they navigate an ever-changing legal environment. — Erin Jones Adams