NAICU Washington Update

Department of Education Seeks to Terminate Recognition of For-Profit Accreditor

January 29, 2021

Career staff at the Department of Education have once again recommended that the agency terminate federal recognition of the Accrediting Council for Independent Colleges and Schools (ACICS), a for-profit accreditor with a troubled history.  Given that the Biden Administration is expected to take a harder line against the for-profit sector than its predecessor, it seems likely that the Department will ultimately terminate ACICS’s status as a federally recognized accreditor.

In the report, Department staff cited ACICS’s failure to meet two statutory criteria for federal recognition. The staff recommendation must be approved by senior Department officials before ACICS’s termination becomes final. If ACICS’s accreditation status is terminated, institutions currently accredited by the organization will have 18 months to seek a new accreditor in order to continue accessing federal student aid funds.

ACICS has struggled to maintain its status as a recognized accreditor since 2016, when the Obama Administration denied its request to renew its federal recognition. ACICS sued, and a federal court granted a partial victory to the accrediting agency. Subsequently, then-Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos ordered the temporary restoration of federal recognition for ACICS in a decision that was later extended for an additional period.

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