Grove City Coll. v. Bell,
465 U.S. 555 (1984)

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U.S. Supreme Court

Grove City Coll. v. Bell, 465 U.S. 555 (1984)

Grove City College v. Bell

No. 82-792

Argued November 29, 1983

Decided February 28, 1984

465 U.S. 555


Section 901(a) of Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 prohibits sex discrimination in "any education program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance," and § 902 provides that a recipient's compliance with regulations of a federal agency awarding assistance may be secured by termination of assistance "to the particular program, or part thereof, in which . . . noncompliance has been . . . found." Under the statute, a federally assisted program must be identified before Title IX coverage is triggered. Petitioner Grove City College (College), a private, coeducational, liberal arts college, accepts no direct federal assistance, nor does it participate in the Regular Disbursement System (RDS) of the Department of Education (Department), whereby amounts for federal grants to students are advanced to the institution, which then itself selects eligible students and calculates and distributes the grants. However, the College enrolls students who receive direct federal Basic Educational Opportunity Grants (BEOG's) under the Department's Alternative Disbursement System (ADS). The Department concluded that, under applicable regulations, the College was a "recipient" of "Federal financial assistance," and when the College refused to execute an Assurance of Compliance with Title IX's nondiscrimination provisions, as required by the regulations, the Department initiated administrative proceedings, which resulted in an order terminating assistance until the College executed an Assurance of Compliance and satisfied the Department that it was in compliance with the regulations. The College and four of its students then filed suit in Federal District Court, which held that the students' BEOG's constituted "Federal financial assistance" to the College, but that the Department could not terminate the students' aid because of the College's refusal to execute an Assurance of Compliance. The Court of Appeals reversed, holding that the Department could terminate the students' BEOG's to force the College to execute an Assurance of Compliance.


1. Title IX coverage is triggered because some of the College's students receive BEOG's to pay for their education. In view of the structure of the Education Amendments of 1972, the clear statutory language,

Page 465 U. S. 556

the legislative history (including postenactment history) showing Congress' awareness that the student assistant programs established by the Amendments significantly aided colleges and universities, and the longstanding administrative construction of the phrase "receiving Federal financial assistance" as including assistance to a student who uses it at a particular institution, Title IX coverage is not foreclosed merely because federal funds are granted to the students, rather than to the College's educational programs. Pp. 465 U. S. 563-570.

2. However, the receipt of BEOG's by some of the College's students does not trigger institution-wide coverage under Title IX. In purpose and effect, BEOG's represent financial assistance to the College's own financial aid program, and it is that program that may properly be regulated under Title IX's nondiscrimination provision. Under the program-specific limitations of §§ 901 and 902, the College's choice of participating in the ADS, rather than the RDS, mechanism for administering the BEOG program neither expands nor contracts the breadth of the "program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance." The fact that federal funds eventually reach the College's general operating budget cannot subject it to institution-wide coverage. Pp. 465 U. S. 570-574.

3. A refusal to execute a proper program-specific Assurance of Compliance warrants the Department's termination of federal assistance to the student financial aid program. The College's contention that termination must be preceded by a finding of actual discrimination is not supported by § 902's language. Pp. 465 U. S. 574-575.

4. Requiring the College to comply with Title IX's prohibition of discrimination as a condition for its continued eligibility to participate in the BEOG program infringes no First Amendment rights of the College or its students. Pp. 465 U. S. 575-576.

687 F.2d 684, affirmed.

WHITE, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which BURGER, C.J., and BLACKMUN, POWELL, REHNQUIST, and O'CONNOR, JJ., joined, and in all but Part III of which BRENNAN, MARSHALL, and STEVENS, JJ., joined. POWELL, J., filed a concurring opinion, in which BURGER, C.J., and O'CONNOR, J., joined, post, p. 465 U. S. 576. STEVENS, J., filed an opinion concurring in part and concurring in the result,post, p. 465 U. S. 579. BRENNAN, J., filed an opinion concurring in part and dissenting in part, in which MARSHALL, J., joined,post, p. 465 U. S. 581.

Page 465 U. S. 557

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