A Troubled Accreditor's Long-Term Outlook

"A national accreditor at the center of the collapse of two for-profit college chains got another lease on life after a court ruling kicked back to the Department of Education a 2016 decision withdrawing federal recognition and, later, the Trump administration restored that recognition pending further review," Inside Higher Ed reports.

"Even with another shot at restoring federal recognition, though, the long-term outlook for the Accrediting Council for Independent Colleges and Schools remains murky.

... Recent analyses have shown that by this point all but a handful of ACICS colleges have taken steps to find new accreditation -- either receiving approval from another organization, filing an application for recognition elsewhere or finding themselves at some point in the process.

... But some higher education observers believe that even if the department ultimately restores the accreditor's recognition, it won't be around for the long haul. That skepticism is due to the number of colleges that have already made moves to depart ACICS and to the damage the accreditor's brand has sustained as regulators have scrutinized its failures in oversight.

'I think that ACICS is too far gone at this point,' said Robert Kelchen, an assistant professor higher education at Seton Hall University who studies education finance and accountability.

Kelchen said ACICS will not only have to persuade colleges to stop leaving for other accreditors -- it will have to attract new schools. The loss of membership dues from institutions that have already departed will have long-term consequences for the organization's financial health, he said.

After its recent troubles with the federal government, some institutions seeking accreditation may also be scared off by uncertainty surrounding ACICS, Kelchen said.

'I don't see colleges being willing to take that risk at this point,' he said.

A February analysis from the Center for American Progress found that just 19 institutions accredited by ACICS had not taken any steps to be recognized by another accreditor. Twenty-six had already been approved elsewhere and another 118 are somewhere in the process of review by a new accreditor but haven't gotten full approval.

A handful of institutions are also in the process of being acquired via merger by already accredited higher ed institutions."

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Publication Date: 4/16/2018

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