TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — Today, Governor Ron DeSantis and Attorney General Ashley Moody sued the Biden administration over its attempts to undercut Florida’s nation-leading higher education reforms. Throughout Governor DeSantis’ time in office, Florida has ranked number one in the nation for higher education, yet the U.S. Department of Education has unconstitutionally collaborated with accreditation bodies to try to block the Governor’s efforts to bring increased transparency and accountability to public colleges and universities. This lawsuit seeks to strip private, unaccountable accreditors of their authority to stand in the way of Florida’s higher education reforms. To read the complaint, click here.
“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,” said Governor Ron DeSantis. “Throughout my time in office, I have made it a priority to bring transparency and accountability to higher education and to reorient the mission of our colleges and universities away from purveying destructive ideologies and back toward the pursuit of truth and the preparation of our students for success. The Biden administration’s attempts to block these reforms is an abuse of federal power, and with this lawsuit, we will ensure that Florida’s pursuit of educational excellence will continue.”
“For too long, private academic accreditors have been holding our colleges and universities hostage,” said Attorney General Ashley Moody. “Thanks to the fearless leadership of Governor DeSantis, we are fighting to take back our public postsecondary education system from unelected private organizations that have no accountability or oversight.”
“Governor DeSantis and I believe a high-quality education should be held to the highest standards,” said Ray Rodrigues, Chancellor of the State University System of Florida. “Therefore, Florida’s #1 higher education system must be allowed to choose the regional accrediting agency that aligns with our institutional goals and meets those standards. The University of Central Florida’s goal to become a preeminent university and join the American Association of Universities is better supported by joining The Higher Learning Commission.”
For a college or university to fully operate in the United States with access to federal student loans, it must be accredited by federally approved private accrediting bodies known as “accreditors.” Last year, Governor DeSantis signed legislation that requires colleges and universities to seek accreditation from different accreditors in consecutive accreditation cycles. Prior to that legislation, accrediting agencies had a monopoly on Florida colleges and universities and were able to control their operations by threatening to withhold accreditation if an institution didn’t adhere to the ideological agenda promoted by its accreditor. The U.S. Department of Education responded to this legislation with three “guidance documents” expressly aimed at Florida, including a “dear colleague letter” which “reiterated” the standards the agency would apply to determine whether an institution has “reasonable cause” to change accreditors.
State law requires over half of Florida’s public colleges and universities to change accreditors in the next two years. Their ability to do so is substantially burdened, if not entirely prevented, by the Biden administration’s abuse of the current accreditation scheme. The lawsuit announced today asserts that the federal government’s current accreditation scheme is plainly unlawful under the “private non-delegation doctrine,” which holds that “federal power can be wielded only by the federal government [and] private entities may do so only if they are subordinate to an agency,” as well as other constitutional provisions and federal laws.
Governor DeSantis will not allow Florida’s public colleges and universities to be held hostage by accreditors that are unaccountable to the people of Florida. By doing away with this unconstitutional intrusion into public higher education, this lawsuit will free more states in the union to follow Florida’s successful higher education blueprint and allow their students to thrive.