Federal Regulatory Reform -- Believe It When You See It?

December 3, 2013

By: Philip J. Zaccheo

In today’s environment, with colleges and universities facing rising expenses and pressure to refrain from increasing tuition and other charges, the cost of legal compliance at the federal, state and local levels is a significant, and seemingly never-ending, concern.  Last month saw the prospect of relief, or at least a sympathetic ear, at the federal level. On November 18, members of the U.S. Senate Education Committee announced the formation of the Task Force on Government Regulation of Higher Education, comprised of 14 college presidents and higher education industry experts, for the stated purpose of studying the burdens of federal regulation on higher education.  The Task Force, convened by Senators Lamar Alexander (R- Tennessee), Michael Bennet (D- Colorado), Richard Burr (R- North Carolina) and Barbara Mikulski (D-Maryland), is to conduct “a comprehensive review of federal regulations and reporting requirements affecting colleges and universities and make recommendations to reduce and streamline regulations, while protecting students, institutions and taxpayers.” A particular focus of the Task Force’s review will be the contention that government “red tape” inflates costs and stifles innovation. It is contemplated that the Task Force’s recommendations will be made available for consideration in connection with congressional discussion over reauthorization of the Higher Education Act. Though a healthy dose of skepticism is understandable, and likely warranted, as to the prospect of meaningful regulatory relief, the work of the task force and congressional reaction to it bears watching.