The U.S. Department of Education warned Florida governor Ron DeSantis that if the state implements a law to require colleges and universities to change accreditors with every accreditation cycle, it could put institutions’ access to federal financial aid in jeopardy.
If approved by DeSantis, the new Florida legislation would require public institutions to change accreditors at the end of each accreditation cycle, which typically lasts between eight and 10 years. Accreditation is time- and resource-intensive, and institutions typically do not change accreditors often.
“The Department urges you to consider the unintended consequences of this law,” James Kvaal, under secretary for education, wrote in a letter to DeSantis. “The steps involved in preparing for accreditation and even changing accreditors may be tedious and costly, which could lead to increased institutional burden and costs that may be passed down to students and families.”
Higher education institutions must be accredited in order for their students to access federal financial aid, including federal loans and Pell Grants. Colleges that lose accreditation often see their enrollments languish.
Advocates of the bill say institutions would benefit from a fresh perspective. But Kvaal warned in his letter that changing accreditors with each cycle could “compromise institutional accountability and quality because it would not allow for a full review of institutional practices and demonstrated continuous improvement brought forward in the prior accreditor review, which is one of the core purposes of accreditation.”