Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis Is Suing the Biden Administration Over Higher Education Standards That Control Federal Student Loans. Here's Why The 41-page lawsuit, filed on Wednesday, argues that Congress has given "unchecked power" to private accrediting agencies that determine education standards required to receive federal funding.
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis announced on Thursday that the state is suing the Biden administration and the Department of Education over the college accreditation process, which controls the federal funding for public universities.
The 41-page lawsuit, filed on Wednesday, argues that Congress has given "unchecked power" to private accrediting agencies that determine education standards required to receive federal funding — which is used for student scholarships, loans, faculty grants, and more.
"Our public colleges and universities will not be subject to politicized accrediting agencies serving as gatekeepers to gigantic amounts of federal funds," DeSantis tweeted on Thursday.
Last year, DeSantis passed state legislation that requires colleges to change accreditors every 10 years on the basis that some agencies had a "monopoly" on Florida schools and could "withhold accreditation if an institution didn't adhere to the ideological agenda promoted by its accreditor."
The Department of Education requires that institutions must cite a "reasonable cause" to change accreditors.
The recent lawsuit accuses the Biden administration and the DOE of giving private accreditation agencies the power to implement their own standards and "act as gatekeepers to $112 billion in annual federal student aid."
The Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS), which is the primary accreditor for Florida public schools and institutions in the south, has raised questions about some of the state colleges' actions in recent years. In 2021, SACS "threatened accreditation" of Florida State University after a former education commissioner for the state was considered for the position of president at the university, the lawsuit states.
Also in 2021, SACS investigated an instance of alleged political interference after three University of Florida professors were blocked by the college from serving as expert witnesses in a case against the state, The Miami Herald reported, which challenged two of SACS' accreditation standards: "Undue political influence" and "academic freedom."
In a statement to the AP, White House spokesperson Abdullah Hasan said that DeSantis is bringing "culture wars, like book bans," to a long-standing education system. "These culture wars do nothing to actually help students and only make things worse. This Administration won't allow it," Hasan added.
DeSantis, meanwhile, accuses the Biden administration of trying to "defund" Florida colleges because the state "refuse(s) to bow to unaccountable accreditors who think they should run Florida's public universities."
"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," DeSantis said in a statement.