Education Secretary Betsy DeVos announced last Wednesday that she has reinstated the Accrediting Council for Independent Colleges and Schools (ACICS), which the former administration stripped of its federal recognition in December 2016.
DeVos wrote in the decision that she will be doing so on the condition that the agency prove in the next 12 months that it has demonstrated “full compliance” with the two remaining of 19 criteria she found to be problematic. ACICIS initially came under scrutiny and was stripped of its powers due to its oversight of for-profit colleges that shut their doors in 2015. The outstanding issues, according to the report, included the fact that the agency “could not demonstrate that new training procedures for volunteers, the new Ethics Review Board (ERB), and its data verification regimes were effective,” as well as issues related to protections against “conflicts of interest.”
DeVos wrote that she came to the decision based on briefs sent to her from ACICS and the senior department official for the Department of Education (ED).
The accrediting agency has pressed to have its status reviewed since losing its federal recognition two years ago. ACICS unsuccessfully appealed ED's initial September 2016 decision, and filed a lawsuit shortly after the final decision in December 2016, after ED also imposed additional requirements on institutions formerly accredited by ACICS in order to maintain their access to Title IV student aid programs.
In March, a federal judge ruled that former Education Secretary John B. King, Jr.'s "decision making process was flawed," and that King and ED failed to consider all relevant evidence, which the judge said violated part of the Higher Education Act (HEA). In a signed order, DeVos said she would consider the additional evidence ACICS submitted in May 2016 before making a final determination.
Many took to Twitter after Wednesday’s announcement that DeVos would officially reinstate the accrediting agency to express their frustration.
Secretary DeVos is exposing students across the country – including many servicemembers and veterans – to predatory, for-profit schools that waste taxpayer money. https://t.co/CPPGod2VEK— Ed & Workforce Dems (@edworkforcedems) November 21, 2018
Bad news for students, great news for predatory colleges: Years after first having its status challenged, ACICS is *still* not meeting @usedgov's own required standards, yet @BetsyDeVosED just reinstated the bottom of the barrel accreditor. https://t.co/Qq6EQRVsC6 pic.twitter.com/A2mkd8I9Tm— TICAS (@TICAS_org) November 21, 2018
The Government Accountability Office (GAO) has also identified issues within the nation's accreditation system.
If there wasn't already one, this move by Secretary DeVos casts a dark shadow over accreditation, undermining it writ large as a reliable authority. It sends the message loud and clear that there are zero consequences for operating as a rubber stamp. https://t.co/0ZtV5WYXBB— Antoinette Flores (@TheToniFlores) November 21, 2018
In a January 2018 report, GAO found that experts said some accreditors' hesitation to revoke accreditation status could be a problem. In a previous report, GAO found that accreditors typically are no more likely to take action against poor performing institutions than schools with better student outcomes.
Publication Date: 11/26/2018