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Capabilities / Higher Education

Higher Education

A greater degree of legal counsel for colleges and universities.

More than 250 higher education clients trust Husch Blackwell attorneys to handle their compliance, operations, and litigation legal services, allowing them to focus on their educational mission. Our higher education clients include major research institutions, academic medical centers, religiously affiliated institutions, regional universities, private colleges, nursing and allied health schools, community colleges, proprietary schools, and publicly traded school groups.

With more than 50 attorneys, our Higher Education law group is one of the largest such practices in the United States. The law firm's higher education group includes attorneys with decades of experience resolving the most complex challenges confronting colleges and universities. Several of our education attorneys gained valuable industry insights while serving as in-house counsel at educational institutions, major corporations, and government agencies, including the U.S. Departments of Education and Justice.

Our guidance to clients in the higher education sector includes:

Compliance and strategy

We supply higher education institutions with top-level comprehensive policy and procedure audits, as well as in-depth systems audits, to identify and remedy potential liabilities. Our team provides access to model and customized policies to help meet program requirements, as well as any necessary training.

Collegiate athletics and NCAA compliance

We understand the central role athletics play in institutional identity and student life—a role that makes NCAA compliance a matter of great importance. We represent NCAA Division I, II, and III colleges and universities in NCAA enforcement investigations and alleged infractions cases; guide colleges, universities, and student-athletes through NCAA regulatory processes (NCAA waivers, NCAA student-athlete eligibility matters, and NCAA amateurism cases); conduct independent investigations and culture and climate reviews of sport programs; and provide comprehensive NCAA athletics compliance assessments. Our experienced attorneys, led by a former NCAA investigator, also closely track potential NCAA rule changes. 

Student affairs

We draft policies, review and update student handbooks, and provide comprehensive training on scenarios such as student discipline, complaints of faculty, and dismissal. We also conduct investigations of alleged student misconduct and recommend options for resolution under existing institutional policies. Our team has vast experience in matters involving Title IX/sexual harassment, the Clery Act, the First Amendment, and the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA).

Title IX

As a nationally recognized provider of Title IX training, our team has a deep understanding of the legal and practical issues inherent in proactively addressing potential campus sexual misconduct and related retaliation. We regularly provide legal guidance on Title IX compliance and conduct comprehensive compliance reviews, and we have extensive experience investigating allegations of sexual misconduct and gender discrimination. We also support institutions in connection with investigations conducted by the Office for Civil Rights and are well-versed in negotiating resolution agreements, including those associated with high-profile cases. Further details about our Title IX work are available here.

Title IV Federal Student Aid

We understand that Federal Student Aid is not only a lifeline for students but also critical in sustaining institutions. Our Higher Education team helps clients obtain initial approval to participate in the Title IV student aid programs and advises on their continued participation. We provide experienced and effective representation when institutions are faced with adverse audit or program review findings. Further details about our Title IV work are available here.

Litigation and administrative actions

Our team regularly defends clients in litigation involving civil rights, class actions, the False Claims Act, and contracts. From the start of an investigation through its resolution, our clients receive guidance and advocacy from our experienced trial attorneys.

Labor and employment

We help higher education institutions with a full range of education-specific matters and compliance issues, such as tenure, employee benefits, immigration, compensation, discrimination, internal revenue, and collective bargaining issues.

Mergers, acquisitions, and changes of control

We have extensive experience serving institutions facing critical decisions that will shape their futures. With an eye towards the institution-specific, operational, and aspirational considerations that impact these decisions, we provide the legal expertise and guidance needed for complex transactions. We assist institutions in navigating accreditation, U.S. Department of Education, and state and corporate legal and regulatory requirements, as well as the practical implications of these transactions for faculty, staff, students, programs, and policies. Over the last few years, we have assisted more than 20 institutions through change of control processes involving mergers, acquisitions, and divestitures. Further details about our transaction work are available here.

Representative Experience

  • Led an independent investigation of sexual misconduct at a state university. The multi-faceted review included interviews with a wide range of students, employees, and faculty. The team also reviewed cases to identify any trends or patterns within the university’s Title IX system.
  • Represented private religiously-affiliated college sued by a faculty member who alleged he suffered religious discrimination and was constructively discharged due to disagreement with the college's religious beliefs. Obtained dismissal in the college's favor and successfully defended the judgment on appeal to the U.S. Court of Appeals, Sixth Circuit, which concluded the college was exempt from the faculty member's religious discrimination claim due to the college's status as a religious institution.
  • Represented a private research university in an energy P3 for the campus, negotiating a master energy-as-a-service agreement that provided for multiple service agreements on behalf of the school, which provided for long-term energy savings and financed facilities improvements. This green campus initiative turned over the upgrade requirements for the university’s energy system by converting the current energy usage into LEED-certified development.
  • Assisted state university foundation in drafting a new data processing agreement with the university.
  • Assisted university foundation with response to a third-party data security incident, including providing counsel on whether the client needed to notify affected individuals.
  • Obtained motion to dismiss on behalf of university in Title IX claim brought by disciplined student.
  • Achieved motion for summary judgment for private university when former student sued for breach of contract and fraudulent misrepresentation following dismissal from university.
  • Obtained summary judgment for major research university in Title IX lawsuit challenging adequacy of institution’s response to report of student-on-student sexual assault in a residence hall. Successfully argued and defended judgment on appeal before U.S. Court of Appeals, Eighth Circuit.
  • Represented flagship state university and faculty member in breach of contract, tort, and due process lawsuit brought by student dismissed for academic misconduct. Obtained summary judgment in favor of university and faculty member and successfully argued and defended judgment on appeal to state court of appeals.
  • Represented major public university and administrators in Title VII and First Amendment lawsuit brought by faculty member who was denied tenure and claimed discrimination and retaliation. Successfully appealed to the U.S. Court of Appeals, Tenth Circuit and obtained reversal of district court’s refusal to grant qualified immunity to the administrators. Then obtained dismissal of remaining claims against the University.
  • Represented private college in internal proceedings to terminate tenured faculty member for conduct inconsistent with college's mission statement and religious principles. Successfully defended termination in subsequent arbitration before American Arbitration Association.
  • Conducted comprehensive historic audit of reports of sexual misconduct by clergy and employees of private, religiously affiliated institution. Advised institution by implementing updated trainings, policies and other measures to address audit findings.
  • Led investigations of alleged sexual harassment and sexual assault involving sports teams at a prominent Power Five conference institution.
  • Defended private university in Northern District of Indiana against nursing student who alleged that university discriminated against her after being dismissed for failing to maintain minimum academic standards. Court entered summary judgment in favor of university on all counts.
  • Obtained precedent-setting order from Missouri federal court holding that former students of private-sector college lacked standing to assert claim under Missouri Merchandising Practices Act.
  • Represented private faith-based liberal arts college during USED Title IV program review, reducing potential noncompliance liabilities from +$6 million to less than $4,000 through file review and analysis, demonstrating compliance to support reduction.
  • Secured motion to dismiss filed on behalf of university client involving COVID-tuition remission requests on behalf of proposed class action of thousands of students.
  • Represented Northwestern University in an energy P3 for the campus. Negotiated a master energy-as-a-service agreement that provides for multiple service agreements on behalf of the private university, which provides for long-term energy savings, a green campus initiative.
  • Represented energy company as local counsel in a public-private partnership where client acquired a license and operating rights to the on campus electric utility system of a university.
  • Assisted university foundation with numerous privacy law compliance issues, including drafting its new data processing agreement with the university, assisting with FERPA compliance questions, responding to a data security incident, and conducting vendor due diligence.
  • Represented university in a novel employment discrimination matter pending before the Wisconsin Equal Rights Division. Following intensive discovery and a multi-day evidentiary hearing, the Husch Blackwell team prevailed with a full dismissal for the client.
  • Served as breach counsel and handled all aspects of phishing attack experienced by large state university.
  • Served as breach counsel for state university foundation when it was part of a data breach suffered by a third-party provider. Worked with the Chief Information Security Officer to analyze the regulatory framework governing the matter and coordinate the foundation’s response. 
  • Advised higher education clients on using P3 delivery models for development of higher education facilities, including student housing and energy districts.
Podcast | March 21, 2024
The SERMAPod: Dartmouth Ruling
Legal Updates | September 25, 2023
CFPB Spotlights Harms of Employer-Driven Debt
Legal Updates | June 22, 2021
NCAA v. Alston: Five Key Takeaways
White Papers | March 2021
2021 NCAA Compliance Report: The Changing Context of College Athletics

How to think about the coming year and the issues that will drive the conversation around college sports.

Blog | September 23, 2020
Updated Guidance on FEMA Public Assistance
Legal Updates | April 07, 2020
Title IX Considerations in the Era of COVID-19
Legal Updates | October 11, 2019
Troubling Trends in Collegiate Sports, Is Your Institution Prepared?

Just under half (49.41%) of survey respondents indicated that their institution has no formal document describing the independent medical model of care adopted by their school.

Speaking Engagements | June 28, 2024
Speaker, "Employment Law Update," NACUA Annual Conference
Webinar | June 6, 2024
AI in Higher Education
Webinar | May 1, 2024
Updates on Title IX Regulations
Webinar | February 29, 2024
Athletics on an Axis
Webinar | November 28, 2023
Compliance 101
Webinar | November 8, 2023
Employee Speech and Religious Freedom
Webinar | September 27, 2023
Higher Education & Consumer Finance
Speaking Engagements | June 5, 2023
Speaker, "Title IX and Athletics," MIAA Summer Meetings
Webinar | May 10, 2023
Title IX Hearing Officer Training
Webinar | April 12 - 13, 2023
Title IX Athletics Equity
Webinar | March 13, 2023
National PBI Coalition March Meeting
Webinar | May 25, 2022
Issues in Higher Education | Search and Seizure on Campus

Issues in Higher Education Webinar Series

Webinar | April 12, 2022
Breaking Down Clery Act Challenges
Webinar | January 27, 2022
Issues in Higher Education | Navigating the Changing NCAA and Legal Landscape of College Athletics

Issues in Higher Education Webinar Series

Webinar | August 17, 2021
Informal Resolution Training for Student Misconduct and Title IX Incidents on your Campus

Registration for this training has closed. For additional information, please contact Emily Schumacher.

Webinar | June 30, 2021
Issues in Higher Education | The New Frontier of College Athlete Name, Image and Likeness

Issues in Higher Education Webinar Series

Speaking Engagements | April 14 - 16, 2021
Speaker, Virtual Gulf Coast Campus Safety Summit
Webinar | March 25, 2021
Title IX Advanced Training
Webinar | March 9, 2021
Title IX Training 2021 - March 9th
Webinar | February 26, 2021
Title IX Advisor Training
Webinar | January 27, 2021
Title IX Training 2021 - January 27th
Webinar | January 22, 2021
2020 Title IX Regulations: Core Issues and Lessons Learned

Issues in Higher Education Webinar Series

Webinar | December 2020
COVID-19 and Clinical Programs
Webinar | December 15, 2020
Labor & Employment in Higher Education Year-in-Review 2020

Issues in Higher Education Webinar Series

Webinar | November 24, 2020
Title IX Training for Advisors
Webinar | November 2020
COVID-19 Privacy Concerns
Webinar | October 27, 2020
CARES Act and Student Funding Developments
Webinar | October 14, 2020
Title IX Training 2020 - October 14th
Webinar | September 21, 2020
Student Health on Campus

Issues in Higher Education Webinar Series

Webinar | September 2020
COVID-19 Accommodations
Webinar | September 11, 2020
Title IX Training 2020 - September 11, 2020
Webinar | September 3, 2020
Title IX Training 2020 - September 3, 2020
Webinar | August 2020
Contact Tracing and Campus Testing
Webinar | August 17, 2020
Alcohol and Other Drug Prevention on Campus in the COVID-19 Era

Issues in Higher Education Webinar Series

Webinar | August 4, 2020
Title IX Training 2020 - August 4, 2020
Webinar | July 31, 2020
Clery in Light of COVID-19

Issues in Higher Education Webinar Series

Webinar | July 23, 2020
Title IX Training 2020 - July 23, 2020
Webinar | July 2, 2020
Return to Campus Planning: Practical Considerations in the Age of COVID-19

Issues in Higher Education Webinar Series

Webinar | June 30, 2020
Trademark and Copyright Issues in the COVID-19 Era

Issues in Higher Education Webinar Series

Webinar | May 11, 2020
Final Title IX Regulations and Their Effect on Your Campus

Issues in Higher Education Webinar Series

Webinar | April 21, 2020
COVID-19: Labor and Employment Issues in Higher Education

Issues in Higher Education Webinar Series

Webinar | March 30, 2020
Before the New Title IX Rules Drop

Issues in Higher Education Webinar Series

Webinar | February 24, 2020
U.S. Department of Education New Regulations for 2020

Issues in Higher Education Webinar Series

Webinar | January 28, 2020
Restorative Justice as a Response to Campus Misconduct

Issues in Higher Education Webinar Series

Webinar | December 5, 2019
Annual Higher Education Labor and Employment Law Update

Issues in Higher Education Webinar Series

Webinar | November 12, 2019
403(b) Crunch Time

Issues in Higher Education Webinar Series

Webinar | October 29, 2019
Faculty Handbooks: Common Issues and Practical Tips

Issues in Higher Education Webinar Series

Webinar | October 24, 2019
Interassociation Recommendations: Preventing Catastrophic Injury and Death in College Athletics

Issues in Higher Education Webinar Series

Seminars | October 23, 2019
Higher Education Seminar - Grand Rapids
Webinar | September 25, 2019
The Landscape for Higher Education: Greek Life Issues

Issues in Higher Education Webinar Series

Webinar | August 27, 2019
They're Back! Addressing Student Health and Safety on Campus

Issues in Higher Education Webinar Series

Seminars | July 31 - August 1, 2019
Title IX Workshop - DePaul University
Media Mentions | July 17, 2023
NJCAA announces partnership with Husch Blackwell
Media Mentions | September 13, 2022
BizTimes: Rising Stars in Law: Catarina Colón
News Releases | May 02, 2022
Former Univ. of Missouri System General Counsel Joins Husch Blackwell

Husch Blackwell is pleased to announce that Steve Owens has joined the firm’s Kansas City office as senior counsel in its Higher Education practice group after serving as the general counsel of the University of Missouri System for the past 14 years.

News Releases | December 06, 2021
Husch Blackwell Elects 36 to 2022 Partnership Class
Media Mentions | August 02, 2021
Austin Monthly: Austin's Top Attorneys 2021
News Releases | February 08, 2021
Husch Blackwell Ramps Up Washington, DC, Growth Plans
News Releases | January 21, 2020
Janelle Carter Anderson Joins Husch Blackwell's Chicago Office

Anderson brings a diverse background to her practice with service as in-house counsel to a global healthcare and technology education provider as well as a state university.

News Releases | January 15, 2020
U.S. Council for Athletes' Health and Husch Blackwell Announce Launch of Athletics Healthcare Compliance Platform

The platform operates as an all-in-one tool to assist with the delivery and execution of compliance requirements by all stakeholders in higher education athletic programs.

News Releases | July 19, 2019
Demetrius Peterson Named to Centurions Leadership Program's Fall 2021 Class

The Centurions Leadership Program is a two-year immersion in leadership and community engagement activities.

I always appreciate the guidance we received from HB. I especially appreciate their superb ability to present complex issues in an easily digestible manner.

Assistant university counsel, public research university