Education officials in Florida have been meeting with agencies as they seek a new accreditor for state colleges and universities. A lengthy and expensive process awaits.
The Florida Department of Education and the chancellor of the State University System of Florida gathered the leaders of nearly 40 state institutions in Tallahassee on Dec. 7 for a closed-door meeting whose purpose remains unclear.
Neither the state Department of Education nor the chancellor’s office responded to multiple requests for comment or for a meeting agenda, attendee list, and other details.
The Florida Board of Governors has provided only vague statements on the meeting.
“The presidents of the State University System and the Florida College System met on Wednesday to discuss System-wide educational goals regarding accreditation and 2+2 articulation. It is critical the two public higher educational systems in Florida work collaboratively to share best practices on issues which greatly benefit Florida’s students,” read one statement from the Board of Governors, which was provided by a university source rather than board officials.
Inside Higher Ed contacted more than 20 colleges and universities seeking details about last week’s meeting. Some officials noted their institution’s absence; others declined to comment or never responded to inquiries. But some sources suggested that the purpose of last week’s secretive meeting was recast at the last minute following scrutiny by the local media.
“There was a plan to talk about the accreditation issue in great detail,” said one college official briefed on the meeting and granted anonymity to discuss the matter. “But after The Tallahassee Democrat broke the news about the meeting, they—presumably the people at the Department of Education—decided to retreat and did not go into much detail at all, just generally discussing the legislation that had been passed. I assume that means there’s another meeting in the future.”
Whether or not accreditation was officially on last week’s meeting agenda, it is clear that Florida is shopping around for new accreditors for its state colleges and universities and has been for a while. The move follows legislation passed earlier this year that requires institutions to change accreditors at the end of each accreditation cycle, which commonly lasts eight to 10 years. Now—despite concerns raised by the U.S. Department of Education—Florida officials are pushing ahead with plans to change accreditors as some institutions approach the end of their cycle.
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