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Gov. DeSantis shows conservatives how to fight for higher education

Washington Examiner logo Washington Examiner 8/13/2022 Washington Examiner
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Almost 50 years ago, a Supreme Court controlled by far-left activists created a right to abortion out of thin air. Conservatives realized then and there that if the rule of law was to survive in America, a sustained campaign was needed to place conservative thinkers in the judiciary. A decade later, the Federalist Society was created. All Republican presidential nominees started promising to appoint conservative judges to the Supreme Court.

Earlier this year, decades of hard work paid off when the court overturned Roe v. Wade.

Conservatives must now do to higher education what they did to the judiciary — and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis is showing the way.

Last year, Florida State University was considering naming DeSantis’s education commissioner, former Florida House Speaker Richard Corcoran, to be president of the university. But an organization called the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges sent FSU a letter threatening its accreditation if it chose a new president who did not have an academic background.

Why does that matter? Under federal law, students may only use government loans and grants at those universities that are accredited by one of seven accreditation agencies identified by the Department of Education. No accreditation, no federal student loans or grants. Unless you are like Hillsdale College, swearing off federal money, this is a death sentence for any university.

SACSCOC was essentially using its accreditation power as a veto over FSU's choice of president. And this wasn’t the first time SACSCOC had abused this power. The same group used similar tactics to block former Georgia Gov. Sonny Perdue from becoming president of Georgia’s State University System.

DeSantis fought back. He worked with the Florida Legislature to pass a law that requires state universities to change accrediting agencies at the end of each accreditation cycle. DeSantis was essentially trying to liberate all Florida higher education institutions from SACSCOC’s veto power over school leadership.

The bureaucrats at President Joe Biden’s Department of Education are not happy with DeSantis’s effort to escape SACSCOC control. They have issued new guidance stating that all universities must remain tied to their current accreditors. It is unclear what DeSantis can or will do, as governor, to fight back against the Biden administration’s efforts to keep the higher education status quo, but the higher education status quo isn’t working for America.

A clear majority of the public (61%) say higher education is going in the wrong direction. Higher education has long been a haven for far-left ideologues who hate America and cannot find work elsewhere. The problem is only getting worse. In 1990, 42% of college faculty nationwide identified as being on the Left compared to 18% who identified as conservative. By 2016, 60% of faculty identified as leftists compared to just 12% who said they were conservative.

No wonder a majority of Republicans now believe colleges have a negative effect on the way things are going in the country.

It doesn’t have to be this way. Just as Republicans began to appoint conservative justices to the Supreme Court, waging a decadeslong battle to achieve their goals, governors need to begin placing conservatives in leadership at public universities. A key step in this process will be the breaking of the accreditation agency cartel. DeSantis seems to have been keenly aware of this even before his rise as governor. He introduced federal legislation to do exactly that when he was in the House of Representatives.

DeSantis’s HERO Act would empower governors to create their own accreditation agencies for their states. SACSCOC would be powerless to bar conservatives from leadership positions at higher education institutions.

Change isn’t going to happen overnight. It took decades of elections and confirmation victories before the judiciary became more reflective of the nation's real values. But conservatives did eventually win. And they can win again.

 

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Tags: Editorials, Ron DeSantis, Joe Biden, Florida, Washington D.C., Higher Education

Original Author: Washington Examiner

Original Location: Gov. DeSantis shows conservatives how to fight for higher education

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