Colleges face political oversight; religious exemption offered

The battle to prevent another power grab by the Obama administration, this time in relation to private colleges and universities, entered a new phase this morning when regulations mandating political oversight of such institutions were finalized by federal bureaucrats in disregard of a three-month national protest effort led in part by CCU President Bill Armstrong. Armstrong released the following statement just before noon Thursday:

Defying expectations, and a tidal wave of criticism, the US Department of Education today announced its “final” rules regarding higher education. Until yesterday, Washington insiders were saying the rulemaking would be delayed for 60 or 90 days, but the outcome is online today—an 894 page document—and will be in the Federal Register tomorrow.

According to a report from the Chronicle of Higher Education, the rules published today contain 82 changes from the original proposal, including “concessions” to colleges and universities, adopted in response to adverse congressional and public comment. Schools will be able to continue using their own definition of “credit hour” when awarding academic credit and “religious and tribal institutions” will be exempted from state oversight requirements. Whether these “concessions” are substantive or just window dressing remains to be seen.

The religious exemption could be of tremendous significance to Colorado Christian University and other faith-based schools. But it’s too soon to “declare victory” because, as always, “the devil is in the details.” It will take a while to sift through this massive document and understand exactly what has happened. However, one thing is sure – more control over students, faculty, staff and the nation’s colleges and universities. What a pity!

Fortunately, the rule is “final” in name only. Congress retains power to overturn the Department’s action, if it wishes to do so. In recent weeks, I have spoken to three members of the Senate Committee which has jurisdiction over the Department of Education, along with Senate and House staffers. They’re as upset as we are about what’s going on. Hopefully, the next session of Congress will be able to “get the genie back in the bottle.”

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