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DeSantis Reintroduces Accreditation Bill

November 8, 2017
 
 

Rep. Ron DeSantis on Tuesday introduced a bill that would allow states to set up a parallel accrediting system to direct federal student aid money to a range of career training programs. 

He said the bill would allow states and local employers, and students to quickly meet needs for workforce training without altering the existing accreditation system that oversees colleges and universities.

DeSantis and Sen. Mike Lee, a Utah Republican, first introduced the legislation in 2015. And conservative Republicans have talked about some version of the proposal since 2013. 

In a meeting with reporters Tuesday, he said he is pushing to have the bill included as an amendment to a Higher Education Act reauthorization. Heritage Action, the advocacy arm of the conservative think tank Heritage Foundation, has also promised to help push the bill with members of Congress.

There has been growing bipartisan support for use of federal Pell Grant funds on short-term training. But that momentum has been accompanied by skepticism from some observers over whether lowering requirements for federal aid would let in unscrupulous actors that soak up federal aid while providing little value to students.

The legislation would include disclosure requirements for employment of graduates, as well as a "risk sharing" measure that would put programs on the hook for 10 percent of defaulted student loans. It would also allow states that opt in to the alternative accrediting model to set their own standards for minimum credit hours and minimum classroom time for a program to qualify for Title IV federal aid. 

New state accrediting systems under the legislation would be able to accredit higher ed alternatives like apprenticeship programs, DeSantis said, and allow both non-profit and for-profit entities to add programs as they see fit.

"They would be able to accredit things that are not necessarily the same as traditional colleges and and those programs," he said. 

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