• NC Education Lawyer

Higher Education Law Basics

Updated: Nov 21

Higher education law isn’t one of the most glamorous specialties in the legal profession, but it’s undoubtedly one of the most crucial. It addresses issues of litigation, mergers, discrimination, program reviews, among others, involving institutions of higher learning.


In this article, you'll learn about higher education law and what higher education attorneys do.



What is higher education law?

Higher education law deals with the legal issues involving universities and colleges. In higher education law, specialized attorneys provide legal counsel to several clients, including regional universities, community colleges, major research institutions, and private colleges.


Aspects of higher education law

Most higher education law attorneys are general specialists capable of providing legal expertise in several areas.

Some of these aspects include:

  • Immigration

  • Animal law

  • Athletics and sports

  • Constitutional law

  • Taxation

  • Torts

  • Statutory and Regulatory Compliance

  • Development and Fundraising

  • Environmental Law

  • Governance

  • Intellectual property


What do higher education attorneys do?

As a specialist branch of law, higher education has its equally specialist attorneys tasked with raising issues with tertiary institutions on behalf of students and forwarding complaints to courts or the Office of the Independent Adjudicator.


Here are some of the duties and responsibilities of higher education lawyers:


Strategy and Compliance

Higher education attorneys provide tertiary educational institutions with comprehensive, top-notch procedure and policy audits to reveal and resolve possible liabilities.


They also provide customized policies to aid educational programs in meeting federal requirements.


Student Affairs

Higher education lawyers draft legal policies and prepare updates to student handbooks while providing thorough training on various aspects of student affairs.


Such aspects include dismissal, complaints regarding discrimination, and misconduct. To this effect, they conduct comprehensive investigations in such scenarios and recommend various resolution options per institutional policy.


Employment and Labor

Higher education law also deals directly with the institutions themselves. Attorneys help universities and colleges with legal counsel on compliance and education-related matters like employee benefits, collective bargaining, compensation, internal revenue, immigration, and tenure.


Administrative action and litigation

This involves litigations involving the False Claims Act, contracts, and class actions. Higher education lawyers follow through with investigations up until resolution.


Acquisitions and mergers

Higher education lawyers guide institutions in dealing with accreditation, regulatory and corporate legal requirements. They also provide counsel in mergers, acquisitions, divestitures, merges, and other change of control processes.



Title IV Federal Student Aid

Higher education attorneys help students land initial participation approval for the Title IV Federal Student Aid program. They also act in an advisory capacity by providing efficient representation for institutions if there's an adverse program review or audit findings.


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