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Gov. DeSantis signs higher education bill with tenure review, accreditation changes into law

Duplicative coursework will also be eliminated under the bill by requiring colleges and universities to align general education courses.

THE VILLAGES, Fla. — Reform is coming to higher education in Florida after Gov. Ron DeSantis signed SB 7044 into law Tuesday.

The "Postsecondary Education" bill makes a series of updates to current requirements related to accreditation costs associated with attending public colleges and universities in the state and regulations for performance reviews.

"The bill removes the stranglehold that faculty unions and accrediting agencies have had on universities and colleges and adds common-sense transparency requirements for tuition, fees and cost of materials," a press release from the governor's office reads.

Florida public colleges and universities, through the bill, will be required to seek accreditation from different accreditors in consecutive accreditation cycles. The State Board of Education and Board of Governors will also need to identify regional accreditors that are "recognized by the U.S. Department of Education (USDOE) and are best suited for each institution."

This means that institutions must seek accreditation from "identified regional accreditors" and if they are denied, then they may seek accreditation from a USDOE-approved accreditor. 

The bill is also said to enhance transparency when it comes to costs associated with attending public colleges and universities in Florida. SB 7044 requires all tuition, fees, books and materials costs to be "prominently" posted on each college or university's website. It also requires notice to be given to students when there is an intent to raise fees.

The Board of Governors will also be authorized to adopt regulations for performance reviews of tenured professors to "ensure that tenured staff remain active and effective in educating Florida’s university students."

Duplicative coursework will also be eliminated under the bill by requiring colleges and universities to align general education courses.

“Florida’s public college and university system is number one in the country because we put students first. Florida’s students deserve a quality, affordable education and don’t need ideological activists and political organizations determining what they should learn," DeSantis said in a statement."By ushering in strong curriculum transparency requirements and providing accountability for tenured faculty, Florida is standing with students and parents across our state.”

The United Faculty of Florida released the following statement, in part, to the bill's signing: 

"If Gov. DeSantis and Florida’s legislative leaders demonstrated anything during today’s press conference, it is that they fundamentally do not understand how Florida’s higher education system works. Tenure protects the right of faculty to teach and research honestly and accurately without the threat of politicians who would fire them for doing their jobs, and it protects the rights of students to learn about whatever interests them without being told by big government how to live their lives. The statements made today are playing political games with the futures of over a million of Florida’s students."

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