New Requirements, More Costs

Greta Anderson

Community colleges are allocating precious time, energy and resources to meet new federal standards for handling campus sexual assault and harassment. Lawyers and associations representing the colleges say the new requirements are impractical and unwarranted at the mostly commuter campuses and come at a time when the institutions can least afford it.

Colleges and universities across the country are trying to meet the U.S. Department of Education’s Aug. 14 deadline to implement the new procedures as they also respond to the pandemic and make preparations for the fall semester. Meeting the deadline will be particularly challenging for community colleges, many of which are experiencing budget shortfalls.

The new procedures fall under Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, the federal law that prohibits sex discrimination at institutions that receive federal funding. Community college administrators say current Title IX structures and staffing levels at their institutions are far less than required in the 2,000-page regulation issued in May. They believe the new requirements don’t take into account the differences between traditional four-year, residential institutions and two-year commuter colleges that are more likely to serve young working adults and older students and less likely to get numerous reports of sexual assault.

David Baime, senior vice president of government relations and policy analysis for the American Association of Community Colleges, or AACC, said the burden the new Title IX regulations puts on two-year colleges is magnified by lack of funding. Recent and past state budget cuts have progressively eroded funding for community colleges, as have steady declines in enrollment over the last five years, according to data from the National Student Clearinghouse Resource Center.

“Community colleges tend to be overlooked when Title IX is thought of,” Baime said. “The compliance burdens can even be more acute for our colleges because of their resource situations.”

He said the Education Department’s new requirement that colleges allow students involved in sexual misconduct cases to participate in live hearings and cross-examinations is especially “daunting” to community college leaders.

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