The country’s primary accreditor of for-profit colleges is on the brink of annihilation after the Department of Education backed a recommendation that it be deprived of the right to accredit schools.
The Accrediting Council for Independent Colleges and Schools (ACICS) currently accredits more than 240 schools, encompassing about 900 campuses and more than 600,000 students who collectively received about $4.75 billion in federal aid last year alone. A large number of those schools are for-profit institutions, which has made ACICS the target of aggressive attacks from Democratic lawmakers who accuse it of providing lax oversight that allows low-quality schools to gain accreditation and then scam students out of tens of thousands of dollars.
Most notably, ACICS was the accreditor for both Corinthian Colleges and ITT Technical Institute, two major for-profit college chains that collapsed after the federal government cut off their access to student loan dollars.
In June, a federal panel recommended ACICS’s petition to renew its accreditor status be denied, citing numerous instances where schools deceived and defrauded students while under its oversight. Now, three months later, the Department of Education has confirmed that decision in a letter sent to ACICS Thursday.
While ACICS has already said it will appeal, if that appeal fails it will have no choice but to shut down. The schools it accredits will then have 18 months to find a new accreditor, or else lose their access to federal student loans. Some schools may struggle to find a new accreditor, meaning the Department’s decision could be a death sentence for them as well.
Career Education Colleges and Universities (CECU), a trade association for for-profit educators, released a statement claiming the Department’s ruling was a crassly political decision by the Obama administration to kill for-profit colleges in order to benefit its supporters in non-profit education.
“No Administration has politicized accreditation like the current one,” CECU said. “To act in such a partisan and biased manner will do nothing to help new traditional students. Instead of working with stakeholders on all sides of the issue and creating a solution that preserves access, the Department once again takes the path of greatest destruction.”
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