Welcome to the Higher Education section of FindLaw's Education Center, with articles and resources to help you understand your rights and get the most out of your college years. This section covers legal and practical issues pertaining to student loans, financial aid, and the basics of for-profit schools; how the law intersects with college sports, including discrimination and drug testing; the rights and responsibilities of students and teachers, including sexual assault and underage drinking; and issues related to life after college, such as applying to graduate school. Also included are articles about the rights of LGBT students, the meaning of sexual consent, whether college athletes may unionize, the facts about private student loans, and more.
Paying for College
Determining how you're going to pay for a college or university education is often more difficult than getting accepted by the admissions office. Tuitions have increased exponentially, outpacing wage growth, making it very difficult for students to afford a post-secondary education. This is compounded by the increased competition among schools within a globalized society. Those who are not fortunate enough to afford college often seek scholarships and need-based financial aid, but not everyone qualifies for those types of assistance and must take out student loans instead.
While private student loans are available from a number of financial institutions, most are offered by the federal government. The main types of federal student loans include Perkins loans, Stafford loans, GradPLUS loans, and PLUS loans for parents. Consolidation loans also are available to help students combine multiple loans into one monthly payment.
College Athletes and the Law
Federal and state laws, as well as administrative regulations, govern certain aspects of college athletics. For instance, Title IX of the Civil Rights Act was intended to bring parity to college programs that had historically limited opportunities for women. The code states that no one may be excluded from any education program (or from receiving federal financial) on the basis of gender, which includes athletic programs. The practical affects of this law include the requirement that colleges and universities receiving federal funding (the majority of them) must provide separate teams for women and separate (but equivalent) athletic facilities.
When it comes to criminal activity, college athletes are subject to the same consequences as non-athletes but also face disciplinary action by the athletic department. And even though the criminal justice system assumes the accused is innocent until proven guilty, college athletes charged with crimes often are suspended until their case is adjudicated.
Students and Teachers: Rights and Responsibilities
College life brings its own unique legal challenges and situations, such as hazing at fraternities; affirmative action; tenure and free speech of professors; and the ability to challenge one's academic grades. Other issues, such as sexual assault and underage drinking, are not unique to college campuses but tend to be more prevalent.
The issue of sexual consent is addressed in most university student handbooks, with specific rules for what constitutes "affirmative consent," without which is generally considered sexual assault. California has even codified rules for how colleges and universities within its borders handle cases of sexual assault. This is compounded by the prevalence of alcohol consumption on college campuses, which often renders individuals incapable of giving consent in the first place.
Life After College
After you graduate from college, you still may have some related issues to deal with. For instance, you may decide to apply for graduate school and need some pointers on what legal issues may come into play. Also, some of those who have taken out student loans to pay for college may want to look into Public Service Loan Forgiveness or other ways to get a handle on student debt.
Click on a link below for a wide variety of articles and resources pertaining to higher education.