DeVos Once Again Shields Problematic Accreditor From Accountability

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Chronically-troubled for-profit college accreditor, the Accrediting Council for Independent Colleges and Schools [ACICS], has reportedly received yet another break from Secretary Betsy DeVos’ Education Department with their decision to delay their evaluation until February 2021. ACICS is currently under three separate Department investigations, including over allegations the accreditor approved an “entity that apparently had no students or faculty.”  Allied Progress blasted the Department’s decision to delay accountability for ACICS which will leave more students vulnerable to taking on mountains of debt based on shoddy accreditation standards.

“Thanks to Secretary DeVos’ repeated intervention, this disgraced accreditor still has the power to legitimize subpar for-profit diploma mills that don’t deserve access to federal aid,” said Derek Martin, director of consumer watchdog Allied Progress. “It follows a consistent pattern of the Trump Education Department protecting profits of the for-profit college industry even when it comes at the expense of student borrowers. It’s clear ACICS’ problems are beyond fixing. The Secretary should stop putting off her responsibilities any longer and strip ACICS of its federal recognition before any more students are steered into debt over a useless degree.”

In November 2018, DeVos controversially reversed the Obama administration’s decision to terminate ACICS’ federal recognition over serious compliance issues — a move that disregarded warnings from her own Department staff that ACICS was still running afoul of federal requirements, and one that came after explicit requests from the for-profit college industry. In December 2019, Allied Progress released records obtained via FOIA request that showed DeVos’ department again found ACICS was demonstrating significant problems nearly a year after the Secretary put the accreditor back in business.

DeVos’ decision to restore ACICS’ federal recognition reportedly came at the urging of one of her top aides, Diane Auer Jones, the former for-profit college lobbyist perhaps best known for her leading role in the Dream Center accreditation scandal and later lying to Congress about it. Just this week, it was reported that Auer Jones was a key player in the Department’s decision to plug on a website designed to help students apply for borrower defense to repayment, because it made the process “too easy.”  Allied Progress has called on Auer Jones to resign — and renewed that call today.

WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW: 

ED Has Delayed Its Evaluation Of The For-Profit College Accreditor ACICS That Is Under Three Separate Investigations At The Department.

June 2020: ED Pushed An Evaluation Of ACICS By “A Federal Panel On College Accreditation” Until February 2021. “The Trump administration is putting off until after the November election a decision on the fate of a controversial college accreditor revived by Education Secretary Betsy DeVos. The Education Department announced on Wednesday that it was removing the Accrediting Council for Independent Colleges and Schools, which mostly accredits for-profit colleges, from the agenda of next month’s meeting of a federal panel on college accreditation. ACICS will be rescheduled for February 2021, the department said.” [Michael Stratford, “Education Department delays action on college accreditor ACICS until after election,” Politico, 06/24/20]

The Panel Was “Set To Consider Whether ACICS Is Now Meeting The Federal Standards That DeVos Concluded That The Organization Had Failed To Meet” Even Though She Also “Extended Its Federal Powers In December 2018.” “The panel had been set to consider whether ACICS is now meeting the federal standards that DeVos concluded that the organization had failed to meet — even as she extended its federal powers in December 2018. DeVos said at the time that she was giving ACICS an extra year to meet two standards, which relate to ‘competency of representatives’ and ‘conflict of interest.’” [Michael Stratford, “Education Department delays action on college accreditor ACICS until after election,” Politico, 06/24/20]

ED Opened Two Additional “Inquiries Into Potential Problems At ACICS” Which Were So Severe That Even DeVos Said “She Was Personally Disturbed By Those Reports.” “Since then, the Education Department has also opened two new inquiries into potential problems at ACICS. One review, which started last year, focused on the accreditor’s oversight of two troubled nonprofit colleges, Virginia International University and San Diego University for Integrative Studies. Another investigation into ACICS began earlier this year after USA Today reported that the accreditor had approved Reagan National University, an entity that apparently had no students or faculty. DeVos told Congress earlier this year that she was personally disturbed by those reports and had launched an inquiry.” [Michael Stratford, “Education Department delays action on college accreditor ACICS until after election,” Politico, 06/24/20]

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