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Educational institutions face increasingly complex demographic, financial, technological and regulatory challenges. Given the fast pace at which these developments occur – and the barrage of legal demands they create – it is crucial for educational organizations to respond effectively on a variety of fronts. For instance:
- Educational institutions face daily financial pressures, from tightening and tuition-dependent operating budgets to rising property and labor costs, and from fluctuating enrollments and graduation rates to persistent development issues. Consequently, they need responsive and knowledgeable legal counsel when making operational decisions that will affect legal compliance and risk management efforts.
- Federal and state agencies have intensified their scrutiny of higher education and show no signs of slowing down. Whether facing an attorney general investigation of financial practices, a federal whistleblower lawsuit under the False Claims Act or an Office of Civil Rights action on a sexual assault complaint under Title IX, colleges and universities must be prepared for government investigations and enforcement actions.
- Union organizing efforts at colleges and universities are becoming more prevalent. Adjunct organizing is driven by concerns over compensation, benefits, workloads and job security. As these unionization efforts increase, the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) continues to scrutinize employer policies and create new laws that challenge traditional views of labor relations.
- Educational institutions are experiencing a new wave of reorganizations that raise challenging legal issues, including adjunct faculty organizing, tenure alternatives, mergers and consolidations, outsourcing of back office services, and affiliation and consortium arrangements. These changes may also include athletic conference realignment. Adapting to these trends, and anticipating and being responsive to the legal issues they present, can enable these institutions to thrive amid significant structural shifts.
- In the wake of school shooting tragedies and child abuse scandals, campus safety will remain one of the top legal challenges for educators for the foreseeable future. The federal Campus SaVE Act illustrates continuous legislative focus on security awareness, prevention and reporting. Educators will have to address a growing number of compliance issues in this area, as well as corresponding litigation from affected persons and interest groups.
- Another constant challenge is obtaining and maintaining federal financial aid under Title IV of the Higher Education Act. Failure to comply with complicated and changing federal regulations can lead to significant monetary penalties, strict limits to funding and even criminal liability.
- Issues with intercollegiate athletics can have broad ramifications for an institution, ranging from Title IX concerns and NCAA compliance issues to private litigation and employment matters. These issues must be addressed in the context of an institution’s simultaneous concerns for financial and reputational stability.
Is your educational institution positioned to succeed?