DeSantis sues Biden administration over higher education accreditation system
According to U.S. law, colleges and universities typically have to be accredited by a Department of Education-recognized accreditor in order to receive federal student aid
June 23, 2023 8:59am
Updated: June 23, 2023 8:59am
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis announced on Thursday that the state filed a lawsuit against the Biden administration and the U.S. Dept. of Education, contesting their authority over higher education accreditation.
“I will not allow Joe Biden’s Department of Education to defund America’s #1 higher education system all because we refuse to bow to unaccountable accreditors who think they should run Florida’s public universities,” DeSantis said in a statement.
According to U.S. law, colleges and universities typically have to be accredited by a Department of Education-recognized accreditor in order to receive federal student aid. In Florida, the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACS) oversees the accreditation process.
“Congress has ceded unchecked power to private accrediting agencies to dictate education standards to colleges and universities,” Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody wrote in the complaint.
The accrediting agencies have “broad power to apply their own standards to colleges and universities, subject only to limited judicial review,” she added.
DeSantis argues that these actions impose unnecessary bureaucratic requirements on Florida's colleges and universities, hampering their ability to tailor accreditation processes and hindering the introduction of innovative approaches to education.
“Accreditation standards are not advisory or optional,” the complaint says. “Rather, all postsecondary institutions must be accredited by a recognized accrediting agency to be eligible for any federal funding programs for higher education.”
Last year, Florida passed a law requiring state colleges and universities to change accrediting agencies every 10 years. However, the new law, the complaint claims, makes it hard for a state school to switch accreditors because they need to receive permission from the Department of Education.
“Making matters worse, colleges and universities cannot freely choose their masters, as federal law requires them to show ‘reasonable cause’ to change accreditors,” the complaint continues.