Forcing colleges to change accreditors jeopardizes federal aid

The US Department of Education warned Florida officials, in a letter sent Thursday, that forcing the state’s public universities to seek new accreditation, as required by a bill passed earlier this week , it could mean losing access to federal student loans, Pell Grants, and other forms of financial aid.

“Proposals to amend state law must be carefully drafted and implemented to ensure they do not put institutions and the students they enroll at risk of losing eligibility for federal financial aid programs,” says the letter, which was sent to the governor. Ron. DeSantis, a Republican, who is expected to sign the bill.

Bryan Griffin, a spokesman for the governor, said DeSantis continued to support the legislation. “We love the bill: Institutions of higher education must be held accountable,” Griffin wrote in an email to The chronic.

The State Board of Education, which oversees Florida’s 28 public universities, also received a copy of the department’s letter. The board did not respond to a request for comment.

The Board of Governors, which oversees the state’s 12 public universities, had no comment in time for publication.

The Department of Education raises three issues in its letter, notably that any university applying for a new accreditor must obtain approval from the secretary of education and show “reasonable cause” for that change. The process is intended to “prevent institutions from changing accreditors in search of lower standards, which may be implicated here,” says the letter, which was signed by James R. Kvaal, the deputy secretary of education. Since the bill may be the first of its kind, it’s unclear whether a requirement under state law would be considered reasonable cause.

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