Stay in the loop! Subscribe to our mailing list

Legal and legislative update from the United States

Although higher education in the United States is an area where states’ rights dominate, movement at the federal level can still exert a direct influence over key issues relevant to the sector. This is particularly true in such areas as student financial aid, research funding, and immigration regulations, among others. This month brought two developments at the national level that bear noting.

First, the mid-term election held on 2 November resulted in a significant power shift in Washington, with the Republican Party gaining control of the House of Representatives and also leaving the Democrats with a much slimmer majority in the Senate than they have enjoyed over the last two years.  The changed political landscape brings into stark relief the very different perspectives and priorities of the two parties with regard to various higher education issues currently under debate. Such matters include the fate of the DREAM Act (see ACA Newsletter – Education Europe, June 2010); the ongoing scrutiny of business practices among for-profit postsecondary providers as well as tuition hikes among traditional institutions; and the perennial question of funding levels for student loans and grants, as well as federal research programmes. The likely new speaker of the House of Representatives, John Boehner (a Republican from Ohio) is considered to be sympathetic to many positions of interest to for-profit colleges, while the presumptive chairman of the House Committee on Education and Labor, John P. Kline of Minnesota (also a Republican), generally stands for  limiting government regulation and involvement in education.

Meanwhile, also out of Washington, new student aid regulations were issued on 1 November, with an impact on foreign institutions that receive such monies by virtue of enrolling American students. As reported in the ACA Newsletter – Education Europe, July 2010, foreign medical institutions receive a significant chunk of US federal student aid dollars. To continue to do so, the new regulations require (among other things) that 75% of the institution’s graduating medical students pass each step of the US Medical Licensing Examination.

The 112th United States Congress will convene in Washington in January 2011, with the higher education community sure to be attentively watching the unfolding debate. US Federal Register