By Blake Neff
Obama administration officials have recommended giving the “death penalty” to the nation’s largest for-profit college accreditor. The decision could affect over 800,000 students at about 900 different campuses, which would lose access to federal student loans if the death sentence becomes a reality.
In a devastating 29-page report issued Wednesday, officials with the Department of Education find the Accrediting Council for Independent Colleges and Schools (ACICS) failed to adequately comply with 21 different federal standards for accreditors. In response, the report recommends revoking ACICS’s status as an accreditor, which would effectively force it to shut down.
Colleges must be accredited by a federally-recognized accreditor to receive federal student loans. If ACICS is shut down, then 243 schools with about 900 total campuses could lose their access to federal money if they are not quickly accredited by a different organization. Currently, those schools receive about $5 billion in student loans per year. (RELATED: Obama Admin Announces New Rules To Forgive Billions In Student Loans)
ACICS has recently been in the crosshairs of lawmakers such as Democratic Sen. Elizabeth Warren, who accuse it of providing lax oversight and allowing shady for-profit schools to repeatedly deceive and defraud students into spending thousands of dollars on low-value degrees. Most notably, ACICS accredited Corinthian Colleges, a massive chain of for-profit schools that abruptly collapsed in 2014 while under investigation at the state and national level for deceptive advertising and other fraudulent practices. In addition to Corinthian, ACICS also accredited ITT Technical Institute, Westwood College, FastTrain College, and several other schools that have suddenly collapsed, been investigated for illegal activities, or both.
In an effort to preserve its accreditation, ACICS recently announced a series of reform measures intended to improve the quality of the schools it oversees.
But federal bureaucrats were unimpressed. ACICS repeatedly failed to stop schools under its oversight from falsifying graduation rates and job placement data, re-accrediting schools even when it had irrefutable proof of wrongdoing, according to the Department of Education report. ACICS is also accused of failing to ensure schools hired qualified faculty, used quality curricula, or honestly advertised their programs.
The report’s recommendation isn’t final, but will instead be considered next by an 18-member panel, which will then pass its own recommendation on to Emma Vadehra, a senior Education department official. Vadehra will make the final decision within 90 days, after which ACICS will have a chance to appeal. If ACICS goes bust, then the schools it accredited will have 18 months to find a new accreditor.
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