Special Reports

Education Department Strips Largest For-Profit Accreditor's Authority


The U.S. Department of Education has officially stripped the authority of the largest for-profit accreditor, the Accrediting Council for Independent Colleges and Schools (ACICS). This comes after an intense federal scrutiny on the organization.

U.S. News reported that ACICS is the largest accrediting agency of for-profit colleges and universities. Last Thursday, the Department of Education has announced that it will no longer recognize the organization as an official accrediting agency. This is the final blow for concerns over the council's ability to be a watchdog for students and taxpayers.

"I am terminating the department's recognition of ACICS as a national recognized accrediting agency," Emma Vadehra, chief of staff to the education secretary, wrote in a letter to the institution. "ACICS's track record does not inspire confidence that it can address all of the problems effectively."

This comes after a federal panel voted to shut down the organization in June as it faced intense criticism of the council for its lenient oversight of educational institutions. ACICS was the agency for Corinthian Colleges and ITT Technical Institute campuses, which have now been shut down.

The Education Department also delivered a formal recommendation to remove the accrediting agency. ACICS currently oversees about 725 institutions. Last year, it oversaw $3.3 billion in federal financial aid.

The organization has confirmed that it plans to appeal the decision. It will have 30 days to file the appeal, which will be considered by Education Secretary John King.

ACICS' interim president, Roger Williams, said that they plan to continue their efforts to renew and strengthen the organization's policies and practices in order to come to full compliance with the Education Department's recognition criteria. 'We are confident that if given the opportunity to do so, we will be able to demonstrate major reforms and ongoing progress towards compliance with the department's recognition criteria," he added.

Vadehra, however, does not share the same sentiment. She noted that the organization needs more than new policies in order to address the issues that caused ACICS' shut down in the first place.

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