NAICU Washington Update

NACIQI Recommends Terminating Federal Recognition of For-Profit Accreditor

March 11, 2021

The National Advisory Committee on Institutional Quality and Integrity (NACIQI) has recommended that the Department of Education 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 higher education sector than its predecessor, it seems likely that the Department will uphold the NACIQI recommendation and terminate ACICS’s status as a federally recognized accreditor.

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.

The vote by NACIQI endorsed a recent recommendation made by agency career staff to terminate federal recognition of ACICS due to several findings of noncompliance with federal regulations. The recommendations by NACIQI and agency staff must be approved by senior Department officials before ACICS’s termination becomes final. 

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 preceding the most recent review.

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