Top Democrats Call for Investigation into Education Department’s Decision to Re-Recognize For-Profit Accreditor ACICS
“If the Department used incorrect information to determine ACICS’ compliance with federal regulatory criteria for recognition, then the Department’s review process and re-recognition of ACICS put students and taxpayers at significant risk.”
WASHINGTON – Ranking Member Bobby Scott (D-VA), House Committee on Education and the Workforce, and Ranking Member Patty Murray (D-WA), Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions, requested the U.S. Department of Education Office of the Inspector General to investigate the Department’s decision to re-recognize the Accrediting Council of Independent Colleges and Schools (ACICS).
In 2016, the Obama administration withdrew ACICS’ federal recognition as an accrediting agency following the high-profile collapse of two ACICS-accredited college chains: Corinthian Colleges, Inc. in 2014 and ITT Education Services, Inc. in 2015. Secretary DeVos temporarily reinstated ACICS in April 2018, then gave final re-recognition to the troubled accreditor in November. Two weeks later, another ACICS-accredited college chain, Education Corporation of America (ECA), abruptly closed 70 campuses affecting roughly 20,000 students.
Earlier this year, a recommendation sent to Secretary DeVos by Senior Designated Official Diane Jones falsely stated that ACICS had the support of numerous other accreditation agencies, which was used as evidence of “wide acceptance” of the agency’s standards, policies, procedures, and decisions to grant or deny accreditation, a basic eligibility requirement for federal recognition. A congressional inquiry has found no evidence of any accreditation agency supporting ACICS’ ability to grant or deny accreditation, raising questions about the factual basis for the decision to reinstate ACICS as a federally-recognized accreditor.
“If the Department used incorrect information to determine ACICS’ compliance with federal regulatory criteria for recognition, then the Department’s review process and re-recognition of ACICS put students and taxpayers at significant risk – especially now that over 20,000 ECA students are scrambling to determine next steps,” the Members of Congress wrote.
In response to recent developments, Members are asking for a full audit of the Secretary’s November 21 decision to re-recognize ACICS.
The full text of the letter is available here.
Stephanie Lalle: 202-226-0853 (Scott)
Mairead Lynn: 202-224-5398 (Murray)
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