NAICU Washington Update

Federal Judge Upholds Decision to Terminate Federal Recognition of For-Profit Accreditor

February 23, 2017

On February 21, 2017, U.S. District Court Judge Reggie Walton denied a motion filed by the Accrediting Council for Independent Colleges and Schools (ACICS) seeking a preliminary injunction of the decision by then-Secretary of Education John King to end the accrediting agency’s federal recognition.  The ruling upholds the Department’s decision, made last December, to formally deny ACICS’s re-application to be a federally-recognized accrediting agency 

After hearing several hours of testimony, Judge Walton determined that ACICS had not shown irreparable damages due to the decision nor an overwhelming likelihood to prevail on the merits of its case. The case will now move to a trial to review the merits of ACICS’s claim.  No trial date has been set. 

Institutions currently accredited by ACICS face a March 12 deadline to enter into a provisional understanding with the Department of Education in order to continue offering Title IV federal financial aid to students. As part of that process, institutions must identify opportunities for obtaining accreditation from an agency other than ACICS. 

It is unknown how the Trump Administration will respond to the ruling. The Department of Education could continue to defend its ruling under then-Secretary King, decline to participate in the defense of the ruling, or attempt to settle with ACICS. The attorney representing the Department, Stephen Buckingham, told Politico that the Department does not appear to be changing its course, and intends to file a motion for summary judgment in the case. 

A separate motion filed by a group of state attorneys general in support of ACICS’s termination remains pending. 

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