May 23, 2023
Last August, the U.S. Department of Education terminated the Accrediting Council for Independent Colleges and Schools (ACICS) as a recognized accrediting agency, in the wake of powerful evidence that ACICS had allowed a number of schools under its watch to engage in deceptive and predatory practices without facing serious consequences.
The Department’s action reprised a 2016 decision by the Obama administration that had been subsequently reversed by Trump education secretary Betsy DeVos. By the time the Biden administration had in turn reversed DeVos, many ACICS accredited schools had closed or found new accreditors. ACICS, which had appealed the 2016 decision, this time said it would forego appeals and shut down accreditation operations by March 2024.
For the schools still accredited by ACICS last fall — the Department counted 27 schools, while ACICS said there were 44 campuses in total — most of them for-profits, the Department’s decision meant they had to find a new accreditor or else lose access to federal student grants and loans. The Department notified all those schools that they could continue to receive that federal aid for up to eighteen months as they looked for a new accreditor, but they had to sign new agreements with the Department that included a number of conditions.
One condition, as described by the Department, was: “Institutions will also be prohibited from enrolling new students who cannot complete their program by the end of the 18-month provisional period until and unless the institution is accredited by another nationally recognized accrediting agency.”