Notes on higher education governance diversity: Florida edition

By Susan Svrluga and Lori Rozsa:

In June, DeSantis lauded work experience over “a magic piece of paper which likely would have cost too much anyway” when he signed a law allowing state agencies to substitute work experience, including military experience, for college degrees in hiring.

“Give me somebody that served eight years in the Navy or the Marine Corps. That education is going to be much more beneficial and pertinent than someone that went $100,000 in debt to get a degree in zombie studies,” DeSantis said.

He has also pledged to keep tuition at public colleges and universities low, and this week, he changed rules for the state’s Bright Future scholarships to allow work experience by high school students to count toward required community service.

Still, his proposals to rein in the independence of those schools have alarmed some academics in Florida and beyond. In other parts of the country, some legislators and governors are pushing for more autonomy over hiring and firing state employees. Tenure is coming under increasing criticism. And a number of states have passed bills to prevent colleges from teaching “divisive concepts.”

Last month, the accrediting agency announced that it would take no further action after a committee visited the University of Florida toevaluate whether the school was in compliance with standards requiring integrity and academic freedom and reviewed new procedures. School officials said in a statement that the outcome “affirms the university’s commitment to the academic freedom of its faculty members and the First Amendment’s guarantees of the right of free speech.”

It remains to be seen whether other jurisdictions follow Florida’s example on accreditation, Kelchen said. But he noted DeSantis’s significant national clout and said scrutiny of higher education sends a clear “message to the political base during an election year that ‘we care about your priorities.’ ”