Florida 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.
“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.”
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.