6 higher education lawsuits to watch in 2022 (2023)

Several major pending lawsuits have the potential to crumble the pillars of long-standing practices in higher education, including whether colleges can consider race in admissions and whether faith-based institutions can be exempt from a federal sex discrimination law.

Another high-profile case accuses top-ranked colleges of colluding to limit financial aid packages, while still another centers on the messy divorce between Liberty University and its former president, Jerry Falwell Jr.

Below, we rounded up six key cases that we'll be watching in 2022 and beyond for the impact they will have on individual colleges and the higher ed sector as a whole.

Students for Fair Admissions v. Harvard University

Race-conscious college admissions may be facing one of its greatest threats yet. Students for Fair Admissions, an anti-affirmative action group, is asking the U.S. Supreme Court to review a case involving Harvard University's policies.

SFFA contends Harvard unfairly considers race in admissions, which it says hurts Asian Americans' chances of attending the Ivy League university. A federal appeals court ruled in late 2020 that the university's policies don't violate the Constitution or intentionally discriminate against Asian Americans.

But if the Supreme Court accepts the case, legal experts say the bench's conservative majority could be more receptive to arguments against affirmative action than the court has been in the past.

In June, the Supreme Court deferred deciding on whether to take up the case, asking the U.S. Department of Justice to weigh in. The department has since urged the court not to review the matter, citing the federal appeals court ruling that upheld Harvard University's policies.

SFFA also recently lost a similar case against the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in federal district court. It asked the Supreme Court to review the two cases together.

Henry et al. v. Brown University et al.

A group of former college students is suing 16 top-ranked colleges, including several Ivy League schools, alleging they've been illegally colluding on their financial aid formulas and driving up the price of college.

Federal law allows colleges to collaborate on their methodology for determining financial aid awards, but only if they're need-blind institutions, meaning they don't factor in a students' ability to pay for college when making admissions decisions.

The lawsuit says that nine of the named universities aren't truly need-blind because they prioritize children of past donors or potential future donors or engage in other practices that give an advantage to wealthy applicants. Therefore, these schools aren't eligible for the exception that federal law provides, it argues.

The schools named in the lawsuit include Yale University, Georgetown University, Massachusetts Institute of Technology and 13 others. All the universities named are current or former members of the 568 Presidents Group, a collective of colleges formed in 1998 to craft a shared financial aid methodology.

While the lawsuit doesn't say whether the other seven universities are truly need-blind, it asserts they also aren't eligible for the exemption because they've colluded with the other colleges on the methodology.

Spokespeople for some of the institutions, including Brown University, the California Institute of Technology and Yale, defended their policies after the lawsuit was filed this week in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois.

Elizabeth Hunter, et al. v. U.S. Department of Education

Around three dozen people who attended or considered attending religious colleges filed a lawsuit early last year against the U.S. Department of Education that could shake up gender and sexuality discrimination policies at faith-based schools nationwide.

Federal law bars colleges that receive federal funds from discriminating on the basis of sex, which includes sexual orientation and gender identity. But it carves out an exemption for faith-based schools that adhere to religious beliefs that conflict with these requirements.

The lawsuit, filed in the Oregon U.S. District Court, seeks to end those institutional protections. It alleges that students attending certain faith-based colleges have been subject to harmful and discriminatory practices, including being sent to anti-gay counseling.

A federal judge granted motions to intervene from three Christian institutions — Corban University in Oregon, William Jessup University in California and Phoenix Seminary in Arizona — as well as the Council for Christian Colleges and Universities. The three institutions and the council have all asked the judge to dismiss the lawsuit.

Houston Community College System v. David Buren Wilson

The Supreme Court agreed to take up a case last year that could impact the First Amendment rights of college governing board members. The lawsuit centers on David Wilson, who won a seat on Houston Community College System's board in 2013.

Wilson voiced concerns during his tenure that the trustees were violating their own bylaws, filing two lawsuits against the board for alleged infractions and hiring a private investigator to look into the board and one of the members.

In 2018, the trustees voted to publicly censure Wilson for acting counter to the board's best interests and violating its code of conduct, according to court documents. As a result, Wilson couldn't hold leadership positions on the board or be reimbursed for travel related to his position, The Chronicle of Higher Education reported.

The Supreme Court heard oral arguments for the case in November, and a decision is expected this year.

Madilyn Short, et al. v. Gov. Michael Dunleavy, et al.

Four college students are suing Alaska and the state's governor to protect a higher education fund that pays for scholarship programs.

As a result of budgetary battles in the state legislature, the Alaska Higher Education Investment Fund is set to lose more than $410 million. The fund finances merit-based and need-based aid for undergraduates as well as loan forgiveness for certain medical students.

The money is under threat of being permanently swept into Alaska's Constitutional Budget Reserve, which acts as a savings account for the state. If lawmakers borrow money from the Constitutional Budget Reserve, other state funds automatically replenish the account unless three-quarters of lawmakers vote to stop the process. A vote to halt the replenishment didn't pass last year.

The $410 million-plus was presumably swept into the CBR in mid-December, according to court documents.

"If this funding weren't available to students anymore, I think the University of Alaska System would see a significant decline in enrollment amongst Alaskan students," plaintiff Riley von Borstel told KTOO.

University of Alaska President Pat Pitney recently voiced support for the lawsuit, KTUU reported. A university spokesperson told the station the lawsuit is being funded from a private account that Pitney directs.

Lawyers for both parties have asked the Alaska Supreme Court to issue a ruling by late February, before lawmakers finalize a state budget.

Liberty University v. Jerry Falwell Jr.

After Jerry Falwell Jr. resigned amid controversy in 2020 from Liberty University, the evangelical college his father founded, the institution sued him for more than $40 million in damages. Liberty alleges the former president breached his contract and fiduciary duty to the university.

Falwell made headlines in 2020, when he posted a photo to Instagram showing his pants partially unzipped while his arm was around a Liberty employee. After he resigned, he told The Washington Examiner that he was being extorted by a man with whom his wife had an affair. That man, Giancarlo Granda, had been threatening to expose the relationship since 2014, Liberty's lawsuit says.

Granda told Reuters that he and Falwell's wife "developed an intimate relationship and Jerry enjoyed watching from the corner of the room." The Falwells have denied those allegations.

The lawsuit alleges Falwell took steps to cover up the extortion attempts instead of sharing the scheme with Liberty's governing board. It also says he manipulated the board's executive committee into adding a higher severance payout if Liberty terminated his contract without cause. At the time, he said this would protect the school if his support for then-President Donald Trump harmed the school's reputation.

The matter is pending in a Virginia circuit court. Falwell has filed his own lawsuit against Liberty alleging defamation.


What are the major legal issues in higher education? ›

Client Alert: Ten Major Issues Facing Higher Education...
  • #1 Race-Conscious Admissions. ...
  • #2 Artificial Intelligence. ...
  • #3 Immigration: DACA Under Threat (Again) ...
  • #4 Antitrust Scrutiny for Institutions and Athletic Conferences. ...
  • #5: College Athletics. ...
  • #6: New Title IX Rules.
Feb 3, 2023

What are the current controversial issues in higher education? ›

The 3 biggest higher education controversies of 2021
  • The “Varsity Blues” fallout.
  • Columbia University's student-worker strike.
  • Remote-learning lawsuits resulting from campus closures.
Jan 4, 2022

What top US universities are accused of illegally limiting financial aid? ›

A class action suit accuses Brown, Columbia, Cornell, Dartmouth, Georgetown, Penn, Rice, Yale and others of inflating their prices for financial aid recipients.

What was the Supreme Court case about affirmative action? ›

In 1978, a second case challenging the constitutionality of affirmative action reached the Supreme Court. Regents of the University of California v. Bakke established the precedent that for 45 years has allowed colleges and universities to engage in race-based affirmative action.

What is the biggest problem in high school? ›

Teenage Problems in School and Tips to Resolve Them
  • Teen Stress. School is a stressful time. ...
  • Test Anxiety. ...
  • Teen Exhaustion. ...
  • Homework. ...
  • Bullying at School. ...
  • Conflict With a Teacher. ...
  • Directionless Woes and Apathy. ...
  • Avoiding Teenage Trouble.

What is one major issue facing student affairs and higher education today? ›

The topics that do: student mental health, cited by 94 percent, and student well-being, by 91 percent. All other issues lagged well behind. This is from the first-ever Inside Higher Ed survey of student affairs leaders, conducted by Gallup.

What is one downside of higher education? ›

College is expensive. Let's face it; with all the benefits colleges can provide, tuition is very costly. It is not unusual for students to enter “real life” with many thousands of dollars worth of debt, only to find their degree offers no guarantees of a lucrative career.

Why are college enrollments declining? ›

Between fall 2020 and fall 2022, the equivalent of roughly 24,000 currently enrolled undergraduates disappeared from the Cal State system. Part of the reason is that students on average are collectively taking fewer classes. In the last two years, students began taking . 4 fewer units a term.

What is teaching controversial issues? ›

The term “controversial issues” refers to “issues which arouse strong feelings and divide communities and society”. Teaching around controversial issues means discussing them in the classroom.

What 16 top colleges are being sued? ›

Sixteen top US universities, including Duke, Vanderbilt and Northwestern, are being sued by five former students claiming those schools may be involved in antitrust violations in the way those institutions worked together in determining financial aid awards for students, according to the lawsuit filed in a US District ...

What are the 16 universities being sued? ›

The suit names 16 defendants: Ivy League schools Brown University, Columbia University, Cornell University, Dartmouth College, University of Pennsylvania and Yale University, as well as California Institute of Technology, Duke University, Emory University, Georgetown University, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, ...

What 16 universities are conspiring to limit financial aid? ›

A lawsuit filed in federal court on Sunday accused 16 of the nation's leading private universities and colleges of conspiring to reduce the financial aid they award to admitted students through a price-fixing cartel.

Who won the Grutter v Bollinger case? ›

Bollinger, a case decided by the United States Supreme Court on June 23, 2003, upheld the affirmative action admissions policy of the University of Michigan Law School. The decision permitted the use of racial preference in student admissions to promote student diversity.

Which Supreme Court case ruled that racial quotas could not be used? ›

Regents of University of California v. Bakke (1978) | PBS. In Regents of University of California v. Bakke (1978), the Court ruled unconstitutional a university's use of racial "quotas" in its admissions process, but held that affirmative action programs could be constitutional in some circumstances.

Does Harvard use affirmative action? ›

Harvard University selects and promotes staff and faculty without discrimination on the basis of race, color, sex, sexual orientation, pregnancy and pregnancy-related conditions, gender identity, religion, creed, national origin, age, disability, veteran status, military service, genetic information, or other protected ...

What is the most commonly failed high school class? ›

It's a math class. And if you guessed Algebra, you're right. The fact that so many students struggle with Algebra is a real problem because it's a class that has far-reaching impacts on their lives.

What is the number one stressor for high school students? ›

Social pressures and fear of failure are common stressors for teens who learn and think differently. Tell your child that feeling unsure or worried about the future is common. Ongoing stress can lead to anxiety or depression, so be aware of the signs.

What is the most challenging high school in America? ›

FETC 2023
  • IDEA McAllen (charter), McAllen, Texas.
  • Signature School(charter), Evansville, Indiana.
  • Carnegie Vanguard High School, Houston ISD, Texas.
  • Young Women's Preparatory Academy (magnet), Miami-Dade County Public Schools, Florida.
  • IDEA Pharr (charter), Pharr, Texas.
  • IDEA San Juan (charter), San Juan, Texas.

What are the top three issues facing college students today? ›

The Top Three Challenges Students Face
  • Academics.
  • Accessibility.
  • Finances.
  • Living environments.
  • Mental health and wellness.
  • Relationship difficulties.
Apr 26, 2023

Is higher education in trouble? ›

Already, enrollment is down 9 percent from 2017, according to the National Student Clearinghouse, and many schools are in trouble: The National Center for Education Statistics reports that more than 500 colleges and universities closed from 2015-2020.

Why is college so expensive? ›

Over the last 30 years, tuition costs have soared for a variety of reasons. State funding cuts, expanding administrative staffs, and increased construction and facility costs all play a role. As a result, the average student debt among college graduates is now close to $28,000.

Is college worth it 2023? ›

According to data published by the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, the wage premium for early-career college graduates was 52%, or $17,680. The unemployment rate for college grads was also far lower in the first quarter of 2023 at 2.1% versus 6.9% for young workers without a college degree.

What are 3 disadvantages of going to college? ›

Before attending college, make sure you consider the following drawbacks:
  • You Likely Will Graduate With Student Loan Debt. ...
  • High-Paying Jobs Aren't Guaranteed. ...
  • It Can Take More Than Four Years to Graduate.
Jun 21, 2022

Can you be successful without college? ›

Even if a degree is not needed in the beginning, it may be required in order for you to move higher up within your company or field. That being said, you can certainly be successful without a college degree — your skills and talents can get you hired.

Why do colleges reject overqualified students? ›

While there is some anecdotal evidence that overqualified students get rejected, these students aren't usually turned down because of their better-than-average grades or test scores. Most likely, the overqualified student isn't the right fit for a school or they haven't shown enough interest to admission officers.

What is the reason most dropouts site as their reason for leaving college? ›

Many students leave college because they couldn't find a healthy school-work-life balance. The time spent on class lectures, projects, tests and studying prove to be too much. College is a multiyear commitment, and many students drop out because they just don't have that kind of time to complete their degrees.

What percent of Americans go to college? ›

The overall college enrollment rate of 18- to 24-year-olds (ages in which students traditionally enroll in college) was 38 percent in 2021. In this indicator, college enrollment rate is defined as the percentage of 18- to 24-year-olds enrolled as undergraduate or graduate students in 2- or 4-year institutions.

What is the problem with today's education? ›

Deficits in government funding for schools.

Funding is always an issue for schools and is, in fact, one of the biggest issues facing the American public education system today. For more than 90% of K-12 schools, funding comes from state and local governments, largely generated by sales and income taxes.

What is the main problem of teaching? ›

Lack of effective communication

As the wiser of the bunch, teachers need to build trust with their students and work on their communication skills every day. You are building an effective communication channel not only between yourself and your students but also their parents.

What are the common problems in teaching? ›

  • 10 Common challenges teachers face in the classroom.
  • Understanding different learning styles.
  • Lack of effective communication.
  • Staying up to date with learning technology.
  • Communicating with parents.
  • Pressure from school administrators.
  • Creating engaging lesson plans that fit the curriculum.
Mar 7, 2023

What are the top colleges to avoid? ›

The worst-value colleges in the US
University nameEconomic score
1. Berklee College of Music20.9
2. Alabama State University14.4
3. Florida National University14.0
4. Clark Atlanta University13.2
17 more rows
Mar 28, 2023

What colleges have the most crime? ›

The most dangerous college campuses
University nameNumber of violent crimes on campus reported between 2019-2021*
1. University of Michigan, Ann Arbor1,468
2. Ohio State University583
3. UC Berkeley242
4. Xavier University240
23 more rows
Apr 12, 2023

What college has the most student debt? ›

Average student debt of students at the top 20 U.S. universities in 2021
University (rank)Average student debt in U.S. dollars
Princeton University (1)9,623
Harvard University (2)18,197
Columbia University (2)29,757
Massachusetts Institute of Technology (2)22,735
9 more rows
Jun 2, 2023

What college is getting sued? ›

The University of Southern California is being sued over an online degree program that former students allege is an overpriced “diploma mill.”

What is the college cartel? ›

It details how elite colleges illegally collude to monopolize the higher education industry and squeeze students, parents, and the public. Between 1994 and 2021, the University of Pennsylvania's endowment increased from $1.5 billion to $20.5 billion, growing by 1301%.

What schools are involved in the financial aid scandal? ›

However, the plaintiffs argue that nine of the sixteen colleges are not actually need-blind and that they favor the wealthy in their admissions process, including Columbia, Dartmouth, Duke, Georgetown, MIT, Northwestern, Notre Dame, University of Pennsylvania, and Vanderbilt.

What college is most generous with financial aid? ›

1. Vassar College. A private liberal arts college in Poughkeepsie, New York, Vassar awards financial aid to more than 60% of its students and promises to meet 100% of need-based aid for all admitted students. In the 2020-21 year, financial assistance was offered to students with family incomes of up to $270,000.

What colleges are accused of limiting financial aid? ›

The other institutions named are Brown University, the California Institute of Technology, the University of Chicago, Columbia University, Cornell University, Dartmouth College, Duke University, Emory University, Northwestern University, the University of Notre Dame, the University of Pennsylvania, Rice University and ...

What did the Supreme Court rule in Fisher v University of Texas at Austin? ›

On June 23, 2016, the U.S. Supreme Court (“Court”), in a 4-3 decision in Fisher v. University of Texas at Austin (“Fisher”), held that the race-conscious admissions program used by the University of Texas at Austin (“UT”) was lawful under the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.

Why is Gratz v Bollinger important? ›

Gratz v. Bollinger was especially significant because it concluded that the University of Michigan's racial preference policy violated the Fourteenth Amendment because it mechanically awarded bonus points to applicants solely because of their race.

What happened in Gratz v Bollinger? ›

Bollinger is a United States Supreme Court case regarding the University of Michigan undergraduate affirmative action admissions policy. In a 6-3 decision announced on June 23, 2003, the Supreme Court ruled that the university's point system was too mechanistic and therefore unconstitutional.

What was the ruling for Bakke? ›

Bakke (1978), in which the U.S. Supreme Court ruled (5–4) that quotas may not be used to reserve places for minority applicants if white applicants are denied a chance to compete for those places. Although the court outlawed quota programs, it allowed colleges to use race as a factor in making admissions decisions.

What was the decision in Bakke v California? ›

It upheld affirmative action, allowing race to be one of several factors in college admission policy. However, the court ruled that specific racial quotas, such as the 16 out of 100 seats set aside for minority students by the University of California, Davis, School of Medicine were impermissible.

What was the ruling of the Bakke case? ›

There was no single majority opinion. Four of the justices contended that any racial quota system supported by government violated the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Justice Lewis F. Powell, Jr., agreed, casting the deciding vote ordering the medical school to admit Bakke.

Does MIT follow affirmative action? ›

MIT's Affirmative Action includes: monitoring of employment-related actions to prevent discrimination from occurring or to detect it and eliminate it.

Is it harder for Asians to get into college? ›

According to research from Princeton University, students who identify as Asian must score 140 points higher on the SAT than whites and 450 points higher than Blacks to have the same chance of admission to private colleges.

What happens if the Supreme Court overturns affirmative action? ›

A decision banning affirmative action would force elite colleges and universities to revamp their policies and search for new ways to ensure diversity in their student populations. Many schools have said other measures would not be as effective, resulting in fewer minority students on campuses.

What are the legal issues in academic advising? ›

Most legal issues related to academic advising fall under four areas: The contractual relationship between student and institution; ▪ Guidelines governing privacy of student records; ▪ The concept of privileged communications; and ▪ Academic due process and the need for grievance procedures.

What are 3 issues that undocumented students face in higher education? ›

Some of the challenges presented for undocumented students are the lack of financial aid, resources, and citizenship information, and institutional regulations that discourage and constrain them from pursuing higher education.

What are equity issues in higher education? ›

Equity Gap

Equity gaps refer to disparities in educational outcomes and student success metrics across race/ethnicity, socioeconomic status, gender, physical or mental abilities, and other demographic traits and intersectionalities.

What are the sources of law in higher education? ›

The following subpages, also visible on the left, identify the major sources of primary law on education and include links to access these resources.
  • Education Case Law.
  • Education Statutes.
  • Education Regulations & Administrative Materials.
Apr 20, 2023

What are four examples of academic misconduct? ›

Types of Academic Misconduct
  • Plagiarism. ...
  • Cheating. ...
  • Self-Plagiarism. ...
  • Impersonating Another Person in a Test or Exam. ...
  • Buying or Otherwise Obtaining Term Papers or Assignments. ...
  • Falsifying, Misrepresenting or Forging an Academic Record or Supporting Document. ...
  • Unauthorized Collaboration.

What are three examples of academic misconduct? ›

Copying from another student during an examination or allowing another to copy your work. Unauthorized collaboration on a take home assignment or examination. Using notes during a closed book examination. Taking an examination for another student, or asking or allowing another student to take an examination for you.

What does academic misconduct include? ›

Academic Misconduct can be either intentional or unintentional. In addition to intentional or unintentional, an incident could also be categorized as cheating, plagiarism, fabrication or falsification of information, inappropriate or unauthorized collaboration, and research misconduct (or sometimes a combination).

What are some examples of barriers to higher education? ›

Types of Barriers to Higher Education
  • Under-preparation.
  • Tuition costs.
  • Institutional or systemic barriers.
  • Personal non-academic barriers.

Why can't undocumented students go to college? ›

College Admission Policies

Undocumented students may incorrectly assume that they cannot legally attend college in the United States. However, there is no federal or state law that prohibits the admission of undocumented immigrants to U.S. colleges, public or private.

What is considered an undocumented student? ›

Undocumented – Undocumented refers to students who are not U.S. citizens or Permanent Residents of the United States, who do not hold a visa to reside in the U.S. and who have not applied for legal residency in the U.S. In many, but not all, cases the term non-citizen refers to undocumented students.

What is inclusion in higher education? ›

The Taishoff Center defines inclusion as the incorporation of students with disabilities into general academic courses on campus, across disciplines and departments with non-disabled peers.

What are inequality issues in education? ›

Educational inequality is the unequal distribution of academic resources, including but not limited to school funding, qualified and experienced teachers, books, and technologies, to socially excluded communities. These communities tend to be historically disadvantaged and oppressed.

Who are underrepresented groups in higher education? ›

A solid majority of California's future college-age population will come from demographic groups that have been historically underrepresented in higher education-including Latinos, African Americans, and those who are low income or the first in their families to go to college.

What are the five 5 sources of law? ›

The primary sources of law in the United States are the United States Constitution, state constitutions, federal and state statutes, common law, case law, and administrative law.

What are 4 sources of law? ›

The four primary sources are constitutions, statutes, cases, and regulations. These laws and rules are issued by official bodies from the three branches of government.

What are the four types of law in education? ›

Although we typically think of the government as a whole, that makes the laws that govern our schools, there are actually four sources of law that affect public education; constitutional laws, statutory laws, administrative laws and judical laws.


Top Articles
Latest Posts
Article information

Author: Lidia Grady

Last Updated: 11/09/2023

Views: 6035

Rating: 4.4 / 5 (45 voted)

Reviews: 84% of readers found this page helpful

Author information

Name: Lidia Grady

Birthday: 1992-01-22

Address: Suite 493 356 Dale Fall, New Wanda, RI 52485

Phone: +29914464387516

Job: Customer Engineer

Hobby: Cryptography, Writing, Dowsing, Stand-up comedy, Calligraphy, Web surfing, Ghost hunting

Introduction: My name is Lidia Grady, I am a thankful, fine, glamorous, lucky, lively, pleasant, shiny person who loves writing and wants to share my knowledge and understanding with you.