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New Report Outlines How Improved Enforcement Can Address Racial Disparities in Higher Education

July 28, 2022

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New Report Outlines How Improved Enforcement Can Address Racial Disparities in Higher Education
Student Defense and Senators Booker, Warren call on Offices for Civil Rights, Federal Student Aid to enhance collaboration

Student Defense today published a new report, How the U.S. Department of Education Can Usher in a New Era of Equity and Civil Rights in Higher Education, on ways the Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights (OCR) and Office for Federal Student Aid (FSA) can coordinate efforts to better hold schools accountable for civil rights violations. The report highlights the racial disparities affecting the federal student loan system and proposes better cooperation between the two Department offices to protect students' civil rights and identify and hold accountable bad actors.

“An OCR-FSA partnership could be far-reaching and potentially address systemic discrimination in higher education. Not only would it be a further incentive for institutions to voluntarily resolve cases with OCR, but it may also give OCR additional leverage to negotiate more robust resolution agreements,” the report says.

The report offers policy recommendations related to enforcement, compliance monitoring, and information sharing between the two offices to increase oversight and accountability. Some recommendations include:

  • setting priorities for coordinated civil rights enforcement,
  • conducting research and enforcement of discriminatory practices, and
  • utilizing information-sharing to make well-informed decisions regarding schools’ participation in federal student aid programs.

“For too long, Black and Brown borrowers have been disproportionately impacted by our broken student loan system,” said U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA). “The Department of Education and the Office for Civil Rights and Federal Student Aid should enhance their collaboration to help tackle racial disparities in our higher education system and to protect the civil rights of Black and Brown students.”

“The Department of Education can do more to promote equity in higher education and address the racial disparities that continue to plague our student loan system. This report lays out a road map to improve federal student aid and right these persistent wrongs that especially impact Black and Brown borrowers,” said U.S. Senator Cory Booker (D-NJ).

Student Defense has long advocated for the Department of Education to hold schools, particularly for-profit colleges, more accountable for civil rights violations. In April, Student Defense filed a lawsuit against Walden University, alleging the school intentionally discriminated against Black and women doctoral students.

“There is a real opportunity for the Department of Education to protect thousands of Black and Brown students who have been targeted by predatory companies through practices such as reverse redlining,” said Aaron Ament, Student Defense President & Cofounder.

A copy of the report can be found on the Student Defense website.