The Department’s Recognition of the Accrediting Council for Independent Colleges and Schools as an Accrediting Agency Inspection Report
March 2, 2021
What We Found
We determined that the Department’s process for assessing ACICS’ compliance with Federal regulatory criteria for recognition followed applicable policies and regulations except during the 2016 recognition review. We determined that the Department did not comply with all regulatory requirements during its 2016 review of ACICS’ petition for recognition renewal because its process did not consider all available relevant information during its review as required. Specifically, the Department had requested and received information from ACICS that was relevant to the recognition review but did not include and consider that information as part of its review. We determined that Office of the Under Secretary (OUS) officials under Secretary of Education (Secretary) King decided to move ahead with the recognition process even after being informed by Department staff that doing so would not leave enough time to review the volume of information requested from and submitted by ACICS. As a result, ACICS successfully challenged the Department’s 2016 decision to de-recognize ACICS.
We determined that the Department implemented a process for assessing ACICS’ compliance with recognition criteria following a court remand in 2018 that was permitted under applicable policies and regulations as well as the court’s remand order. This process did not include reviews by the Department’s Accreditation Group or the National Advisory Committee on Institutional Quality and Integrity but did include a U.S. Department of Education Office of Inspector General ED-OIG/S19T0003 2 focused review by the SDO (DeVos) 1 of evidence submitted by ACICS for each of the 21 recognition criteria that the Department previously determined ACICS noncompliant with. The SDO’s (DeVos) review included the information that was originally reviewed in 2016, information that was submitted by ACICS but not reviewed by the Department in 2016, as well as updated information submitted by ACICS in 2018. This process also included a review by Secretary DeVos of the SDO’s (DeVos) analysis and recommendations. (For a more detailed description of the Department’s recognition process, as well as a list of Federal regulations relevant to this inspection, see “Appendix B. Process for Federal Recognition of Accrediting Agencies” and “Appendix C. Regulations Applicable to the Federal Recognition of Accrediting Agencies.”)