Education Dept. Report Says No to a For-Profit Accreditor — but It Might Not Matter

"For the second time in less than two years, officials at the U.S. Department of Education have recommended against approving a controversial accrediting agency that primarily oversees for-profit colleges. But their finding may have little effect on the accreditor's future," The Chronicle of Higher Education reports.

"Friday evening, the department released a 244-page document advising that the Accrediting Council for Independent Colleges and Schools, known as Acics, fails to meet nearly 60 federal regulations on accreditation. The analysis is a draft of a report that was meant to be released in May at a hearing scheduled to consider the accreditor's status. That hearing was cancelled following a judge's order in a lawsuit filed by the council.

The draft identified numerous minor shortcomings on the part of the accrediting agency. For example, the document said, Acics must update its directory of accredited institutions and show that it has enough staff to carry out its responsibilities. But the report also found major problems. It said the agency had failed to show that its standards and practices are widely accepted by educators, licensing agencies, and employers.

The staff report 'makes clear' that the council 'is a wholly unfit and unreliable evaluator of higher education institutions,' said a news release from The Century Foundation, one of two groups that had sued the department for its release.

In a written statement, the council responded that the draft report contains 'numerous inaccuracies.' The council's president, Michelle Edwards, said in an email that the organization is preparing to release a more detailed response to the report.

A letter from department officials — not written by the staff who prepared the report — also downplayed the significance of the findings, calling the report 'an incomplete, pre-decisional document that may include errors of fact or omissions on the part of staff analysts who, in this case, did not benefit from receiving a response or additional information from the Agency.'

In that letter, the department also said the draft analysis will 'not be considered by the Department in any future evaluations or assessments, including the review of the 2016 decision because the criteria for initial recognition and those that were the subject of the 2016 decision are not the same.'"

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Publication Date: 6/12/2018

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