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Ron DeSantis Pushes for Higher Education Reform, Cutting Out DOE

March 3, 2015 - 6:00pm

A conservative congressman from Florida is looking to get higher education accreditation out of the hands of the U.S. Department of Education (DOE) and give that power to the states.

On Wednesday, U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis, R-Fla., announced he was introducing the Higher Education Reform and Opportunity (HERO)" Act in the House. The bill, which was introduced by U.S. Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, last January would allow the state governments to create their own accreditation bodies for higher education instead of relying on the federal DOE which currently recognizes the various regional and national accrediting bodies. The sponsors insisted their bill would not impact the current accrediting bodies.

Colleges, universities, trade schools and other postsecondary institutions rely on accreditation from DOE-recognized bodies so they can offer federally-backed financial aid.

DeSantis insisted giving that power to the states would lower costs for students while promoting opportunity and innovation in higher education.

As the cost of higher education continues to rise, putting a burden on our economy and middle class families, students and families would benefit from alternatives to traditional brick-and-ivy institutions DeSantis said on Wednesday. "Allowing Title IV funds to flow to education programs accredited by state systems will help our nations students to pursue the skills and education that they need to succeed in their chosen fields. Congress should empower states with the ability to accredit programs that will better serve the education needs of students. This reform could usher in an era of innovation in higher education that will make the acquisition of advanced skills readily attainable at affordable prices.

Lee said the HERO Act would benefit students, especially as more of them look at other options besides traditional undergraduate program.

"The basic problem with our higher education system isn't a lack of funding from the American taxpayer, but a lack of imagination by Washington policymakers, Lee said. For far too long the arbiters of education standards and the gatekeepers of student loan funds have presumed that a bachelor's degree conferred by an elite, four-year institution is the only standard with which all higher education options must be judged. The HERO Act solves this problem by allowing states to create their own alternative systems of accrediting Title IV-eligible higher education providers, enabling our postsecondary education system to become as diverse and nimble as the job-creating industries looking to hire."

Both Lee and DeSantis penned a piece at National Review on Wednesday, making the case for the HERO Act.

The current cartel of higher education has locked out nontraditional students and driven costs ever higher, Lee and DeSantis wrote. By opening up our nations higher-education system to competitively priced alternative programs, traditional institutions would have to re-examine the pricing schemes that have led to the explosion of student-loan debt. Fostering choices outside of the current education model will spur competition and encourage schools to lower costs -- benefiting all students. Our legislation is a simple, conservative reform to higher education that will shift power closer to the states and benefit millions of future students. It is time that we take this simple step toward ensuring a more prosperous future.


Reach Kevin Derby at kderby@sunshinestatenews.com or follow him on Twitter: @KevinDerbySSN

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