March 10, 2022
The Florida Legislature passed a bill this week that would force the state’s public colleges to change accreditors every accreditation cycle and allow the state universities’ governing board to require post-tenure reviews every five years.
The bill has drawn criticism, including that frequently changing accreditors will place onerous requirements on colleges that could drive up tuition prices for students. Some lawmakers are also concerned the post-tenure review changes could harm academic freedom, Florida Politics reported.
The Legislature also passed a sweeping bill Thursday limiting the ways instructors can teach about race and identity. The bill applies to the state’s K-20 education system and prompted lawmakers to debate how it would affect colleges.
Together, the bills reflect the legislative priorities of GOP lawmakers nationwide. Republican legislators in several conservative states have been attempting to assert their political will on colleges and universities, influencing decisions usually left to college officials, such as personnel decisions. They also have been attacking the treasured concept of tenure and attempting to outlaw the teaching of critical race theory, a decades-old academic concept.
Colleges must be recognized by an approved accrediting agency to access federal financial aid. But policy experts say Florida lawmakers’ changes to accreditation requirements would be difficult to carry out because accrediting agencies come in limited numbers and applying to new ones can take multiple years.
The Council for Higher Education Accreditation, a group that recognizes accreditors, wrote to Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, a Republican, this week to voice several concerns about the bill.