Regulation and oversight in higher education is important to assuring accountability for federal dollars.  In many cases, however, these requirements do not relate to good stewardship, but are imposed solely by virtue of the fact that federal student aid assistance is provided.  As a result, complying with the ever-growing array of federal requirements has become extremely costly and time-consuming to colleges and universities. 

As but one example of the extent of the problem, the Department of Education’s Consumer Information Disclosures At-a-Glance publication is 37-pages long.  “Carol’s Boxes,” a five-foot high stack of cartons containing existing regulations governing higher education, complied by former NAICU staffer Carol Fuller, were used by Senator Lamar Alexander (R-TN) to provide visual evidence of the significant regulatory demands on colleges by the Department of Education alone. 

It is not a question of the good intentions behind these requirements, but rather that they continue to accumulate with no paring back or review of what is already on the books.  Congress should decide what is critical to federal oversight, taxpayers, and higher education consumers, and then limit reporting and related regulatory requirements to those areas. 


Each year, new statutory and regulatory requirements are imposed on colleges, adding real costs at a time when institutions are being asked to tighten their belts.  To date, general concern about institutional burden has not been sufficient to counter the specific individual concerns of those advocating for particular requirements.

The reauthorization of the Higher Education Act offers another opportunity to seek relief.  The February 2015 report of the Task Force on the Federal Regulation of Higher Education provides a number of concrete steps for achieving this goal.

Task Force on the Federal Regulation of Higher Education

Senate HELP Committee Chairman Lamar Alexander (R-TN) is interested in eliminating many of the outdated or inapplicable regulations impacting institutions of higher education – a process that he has deemed “weeding the garden.” Although the legislative vehicle for deregulation remains unclear, Sen. Alexander has promised a serious conversation around higher education deregulation as a part of the broader HEA reauthorization process.
To help guide the deregulation effort, a bipartisan group of senators appointed 16 higher education leaders to create the Task Force on the Federal Regulation of Higher Education; the panel included seven NAICU members. The Task Force published a final report in 2015, focusing on regulatory requirements in the areas of student financial aid, campus security, federal Financial Responsibility Standards, data collection, disclosures, and accreditation.  The report also identified a number of specific requirements that are particularly problematic for institutions.

While on the campaign trail, President-elect Donald J. Trump cited the high price of regulatory compliance as a major problem for colleges and universities, and stressed the need to reduce those unnecessary federal compliance costs. It is likely that the Task Force report will serve as a starting point for the Trump Administration to implement its deregulatory agenda.  

what you can do

  • Contact your Senators and Representative to explain the real impact of overregulation to your institution.  Use specific examples from your campus to make the case.


NAICU Contact

Jody Feder: