NAICU Washington Update

Terminated For-Profit Accreditor Temporarily Regains Federal Recognition

April 26, 2018

Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos has ordered the temporary restoration of federal recognition for the Accrediting Council for Independent Colleges and Schools (ACICS).  The decision was made as Secretary DeVos reconsiders the Department of Education’s decision to terminate the recognition of the for-profit accreditor. The temporary restoration for ACICS comes in the wake of a federal court ruling that granted a partial victory to the accreditor in its dispute with the Department over its accreditation status.

In the ruling, the court held that the Department had violated the Administrative Procedure Act because it had failed to consider relevant evidence when it stripped ACICS of its federal recognition. Although the court denied several of ACICS’s claims that sought to overturn the termination decision, the court remanded the case to the Secretary and directed her to examine the evidence in question. In response to the court’s ruling, which effectively reopened ACICS’s original petition for federal recognition, Secretary DeVos announced that she was restoring ACICS’s status as a federally recognized accreditor—retroactive to December 12, 2016—until she reaches a determination in light of the new evidence.

The legal dispute in the case began in September 2016, when the lead Department official with responsibility for the recognition of accreditors denied ACICS’s request to renew its federal recognition. This decision was subsequently upheld on appeal to 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. As the lawsuit proceeded, the Trump Administration filed a motion to defend the Department’s Obama-era decision to terminate federal recognition of ACICS.

The most recent judicial and agency actions have breathed new life into ACICS’s attempt to regain its prior accreditation status, and has granted relief to ACICS-accredited institutions, which had faced a mid-June deadline to find a new accreditor in order to continue accessing federal student aid funds.

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