Gov. Ron DeSantis Signs Bill to Reform Higher Education to Improve Transparency for Students, Hold Tenured Faculty Accountable
By Space Coast Daily // April 20, 2022
TALLAHASSEE, FLORIDA – Governor Ron DeSantis signed Senate Bill 7044 on Wednesday, to reform higher education in Florida.
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.
“Florida’s public college and university system is number one in the country because we put students first,” said Governor Ron DeSantis. “Florida’s students deserve a quality, affordable education and don’t need ideological activists and political organizations determining what they should learn. By ushering in strong curriculum transparency requirements and providing accountability for tenured faculty, Florida is standing with students and parents across our state.”
“Florida’s #1 ranked higher education system is only going to get stronger with the signing of SB 7044 into law,” said Commissioner of Education Richard Corcoran. “Florida has become the epicenter for education reform and I applaud Governor DeSantis for signing this common sense legislation.
The outlook of higher education shines bright and we look forward to defending our #1 status for years to come.”
“Florida continues to set the national standard for higher education, and this legislation furthers our commitment to making sure higher education is high quality, low cost and linked to a good job in a field our growing communities need,” said Senate President Wilton Simpson.
“This great bill addresses two critical needs of our higher education system: supporting student success through transparency and adding accountability with post-tenure review,” said Speaker Chris Sprowls. “Florida is home to some of the nation’s greatest colleges and universities, but our students deserve the very best. The option for universities to complete comprehensive post-tenure reviews every five years will inject more accountability and enhance performance and recognition for those faculty doing exceptional work and help identify where improvements must be made. This coupled with requiring textbook, tuition and fee transparency will allow Florida students to gain the most value out of their education.”
“Florida is rapidly growing as a beacon of knowledge in higher education, attracting and retaining the best and brightest students and faculty alike,” said Senator Manny Diaz, Jr. “SB 7044 is legislation that will provide transparency and codify existing practices for our students regarding course information, student fees and much more. The law also reinforces our state’s commitment to excellence in education by improving the tenure culture amongst faculty. I thank the Governor for his focus on bettering the educational institutions preparing the future leaders of our state.”
“SB 7044 is a great step forward for students across the state of Florida,” said Representative Amber Mariano. “This bill improves transparency in higher education, whether it’s through academics or tuition and fees. SB 7044 encourages our institutions to be innovative and transformational, and I am honored to have worked on this legislation.”
“College students should receive an academically rich education at an affordable price,” said Dr. Michael Poliakoff, President, American Council of Trustees and Alumni. “What we will witness when Governor DeSantis signs SB 7044 is guardianship of our future. Today marks another great chapter, because there is no doubt tenure without accountability is an invitation to abuse. General education courses should be reliably robust and transferrable across institutions. This is a bulwark against the wasting of opportunity costs and students’ and taxpayers’ money. This is a bold innovation that moves accreditation from being a regional monopoly into the 21st century.”
“There still are some individuals out there that believe that woke narratives are the only narratives that should be taught on college campuses,” said Taylor Walker, Student, Florida State University. “My professors hold me to high standards, as they should. But this bill gives me the opportunity to hold them to the same high standards that they should be held to. If we are paying an institution to guide me in expanding my mind, should we not be able to hold that institution accountable?”
“Institutional accountability is who we are, and it is what we should be providing you and the families that join us at every institution across the state,” said Dr. Angela Garcia Falconetti, President of Polk State College and Chair of the Florida College System Council of Presidents. “I am honored to be here today to represent Florida’s 28 Colleges as chair of the Florida college system Council of Presidents. This is an exciting moment for our state. Senate Bill 7044 represents a fundamental shift in how higher education operates here in Florida.”
“2 years ago, my daughter challenged me to go to school and luckily because of rules in the state and tuition costs, I’m able to accept the challenge,” said Brian Holloway, Student, College of Central Florida. “I stand before you, 45 years old, a student. I graduated with the highest honors getting my [Associate] degree and continue to do that while I work on my Bachelor’s [degree].
Updated requirements established by this bill will ensure that Florida’s public colleges and universities are focused on creating good citizens for the future and are not held down by outdated staffing practices and bureaucratic accrediting agencies.
Through the bill, Florida’s public colleges and universities will be required to seek accreditation from different accreditors in consecutive accreditation cycles.
The State Board of Education and Board of Governors (BOG) will identify regional accreditors that are recognized by the U.S. Department of Education (USDOE) and are best suited for each institution.
Institutions must seek accreditation from identified regional accreditors and if they are denied by the regional accreditor, they may seek accreditation from any USDOE approved accreditor that is different from their current accreditor. Prior to this legislation, accrediting agencies had a monopoly on Florida colleges and universities and were able to hold a hand over the operations of educational institutions and remove objectivity from the process.
The bill will also enhance transparency of costs associated with attending Florida’s public colleges and universities.
Institutions will be required to prominently post all tuition and fees to their websites and give proper notice to students when there is intention to raise fees. Books and materials will be required to be posted as well.
The BOG will be authorized to adopt regulations for performance reviews of tenured professors to hold tenured faculty to the highest standards of accountability. These reviews will help ensure that tenured staff remain active and effective in educating Florida’s university students. Previously, tenured faculty had to be retained despite repeated instances of political motivations, ineffective teaching practices and overall bad behavior in the classroom.
Additionally, the bill will eliminate duplicative coursework by requiring schools to align their general education courses. This will allow for a smoother transfer of credits for students who are transferring institutions within Florida’s colleges and universities. This will prevent students from taking the same course at different institutions due to differences in course labeling and students will benefit by saving time and money.