The Accrediting Council for Independent Colleges and Schools (ACICS) — which has been accused of lax standards and which accredited many marginal schools for aliens — has lost another battle in its struggle to stay alive, according to a recent article in the Washington Post.
We at CIS have been following this story since at least 2014; ACICS, a 100-year-old entity focused on the for-profit education business, has repeatedly been challenged for its minimal standards for such schools, but early in the Trump administration these reform efforts were thwarted. In recent years, it has declined from an entity with a 300-school roster to one with 27 remaining institutions.
Historically, some of the ACICS schools had 100 percent admission policies and majored in aliens who, in turn, were given visas to come to this country and, in most cases, granted the right to work in the States. Following graduation, or perhaps “graduation”, the alien alumni were then eligible for federally subsidized jobs as workers in the often-abused Optional Practical Training program, as we have reported here, here, and here.
In the most recent development, Deputy Secretary of Education Cindy Martin — after a year’s delay — confirmed an earlier staff decision putting ACICS on a year-long path to oblivion. She said, according to the Post, that “the council was incapable of meeting federal standards including having an adequate staff and financial resources to operate. She said it was unlikely the oversight body ... could rectify years of problems if given time.”
A secretary of Education, late in the Obama administration, came to similar conclusions, but ACICS appealed to both the courts and to then Trump Secretary of Education Betsy Voss; the latter undid the work of the Obama administration, giving ACICS a few more years of life.
The Post story then went on to say:
[DoE] staffers took issue with the council’s accreditation of Reagan National University, a school in South Dakota [a minimal regulation state] that a USA Today investigation in 2020 revealed had no students, faculty or classrooms.
Another council-accredited school, Fairfax University of America — formerly known as Virginia International University — was nearly forced to close in 2019 after a state audit criticized its on-line education program. Education Department staffers questioned why ACICS had failed to step up before state regulators intervened.
My hunch is that ACICS will go to court to try to stay alive; its only other option would be to disband. Its latest financial report to the IRS (it is a non-profit) shows $8,131,000 in net assets, which should more than cover the lawyers’ fees.