NAICU Washington Update

Trump Administration Upholds Decision to End Federal Recognition of ACICS

May 03, 2017

Attorneys for Education Secretary Betsy DeVos filed a motion in federal court last month arguing that the Department of Education had acted properly when it stripped the Accrediting Council for Independent Colleges and Schools (ACICS) of its status as a federally recognized accrediting agency. 

Although ACICS, which predominately accredits for-profit schools, had lobbied the Trump Administration to overturn an Obama-era decision to terminate its federal recognition, the recent move by the Department is likely to end speculation that the new administration would reverse course.

In the court filing, attorneys for the Department argued that the withdrawal of ACICS’s recognition was lawful because it was based on an evidentiary record that demonstrated ACICS’s failure to comply with regulatory requirements governing federally recognized accrediting agencies. According to the Department, these alleged problems include ACICS’s failure to effectively monitor institutions it accredits or to take adverse actions against institutions engaged in wrongdoing. As a result, the Department’s motion asks the court to immediately rule in its favor. If this motion is unsuccessful, then the case will proceed to trial, unless the parties reach a settlement agreement.

The legal dispute in the case began in September 2016, when the Department originally denied ACICS’s request to renew its federal recognition. This decision was subsequently upheld by then-Secretary John King. In response, ACICS sought a preliminary injunction to prevent the Secretary from implementing his decision, but the court denied the request. In the meantime, institutions currently accredited by ACICS have 18 months—measured from Secretary King’s December 12, 2016 decision to deny recognition—to seek a new accreditor in order to continue accessing federal student aid funds, subject to certain conditions established by the Department.

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