Accrediting Council for Independent Colleges and Schools
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The Accrediting Council for Independent Colleges & Schools (ACICS) is an academic accreditation agency that is supposed to certify post-secondary schools. Instead, they accredited substandard schools such as ITT Tech and non-existent schools such as "Reagan National University". In 2016, following the collapse of ITT Tech, the Department of Education stripped them of their accreditation. However, a judge ordered the matter be re-investigated, and their Department of Education accreditation was restored, thanks to Betsy DeVos. This accreditation agency and the colleges it deems worthy of federal money, was a source of controversy for the Trump administration. In 2021 the ACICS lost its status as an accreditor again, and many of the colleges it accredited have ceased operation.
The Accrediting Council for Independent Colleges & Schools was formed in 1912. They were notorious for only accrediting for-profit schools, several of which went under in the 2010s. The bankruptcies included high-profile cases that screwed over hundreds of thousands of students. This was on top of allegations of said for-profit schools and their degrees being utterly worthless. In 2015, ACICS oversaw 725 institutions and 3.3 billion dollars in federal financial aid.. Might as well light that 3.3 billion dollars on fire for the same price.
ITT Tech went bankrupt in 2016, under the weight of growing accusations that the college was a joke and not worth the absurd amount of money that they charged. This closure screwed over tens of thousands of students, now stuck with a half-finished education, that would be difficult to transfer, and cost an idiotic amount of money, or dealing with trying to get the loans discharged and scrapping what they had started working on.. Basically, starting from square one.
Reagan National University
Reagan National University, was a 'university' located in Sioux Falls, SD. It started out in 2010 as "Si Tanka University" but changed its name to "Reagan National University" in 2017. It was accredited by ACICS in 2017.[note 1]
A USA Today investigation revealed broken class registration web pages, professors who actively denied working at Reagan National, or simply don't appear to exist beyond the university's website. The university's president, Harold Harris, also doesn't seem to exist beyond their website. Visiting the physical addresses listed for the university on two separate days during the start of spring semester in most universities revealed locked doors and an empty office suite.
In emails exchanged with reporters, ACICS president and CEO Michelle Edwards defended the accreditation process. She noted that when it was accredited in 2017 it was "out of compliance" in some areas, which they were expected to address. Bafflingly, this contradicts a statement from Edwards about the accreditation process in those same emails, "ACICS Accreditation Criteria does not allow for the awarding of an initial grant or new grant of accreditation unless ALL standards have been met."
In January 2019, ACICS questioned why Reagan National had a job placement rate of 0%. By May, they had satisfied ACICS that the matter was being corrected, somehow.
In December 2019, ACICS expressed concerns in a letter over the course catalog and grading system following a site visit. Among these concerns was a computer science class that dealt with networks and mini-computers that didn't have any of the equipment needed to deal with either networks or mini-computers. Reagan National was given until 7 February, 2020 to provide a plan for addressing these concerns.
On February 8, 2020, Reagan National University had their accreditation withdrawn.
Evidence suggests that Reagan National may have been trying to operate as a "visa mill", a institution that provides student visas with no intention of offering an education to those individuals. An investigation revealed connections between Reagan and Northern Virginia University, an unaccredited "university" that the state closed in 2013 after they were accused of being a "visa mill" by ICE.
Corinthian Colleges Inc. was a chain of for-profit schools operating as Everest College, Heald College and WyoTech and backed by major investments from Goldman Sachs, Wells Fargo, and the California Public Employees’ Retirement System (CalPERS). Corinthian managed to rake in over US$100 million from thousands of low income students. The Securities and Exchange Commission only had Corinthian pay a meager US$100,000 fine. In 2016 then California Attorney General Kamala Harris obtained a $1.1-billion default judgment against Corinthian for a raft of deceptive practices, leading to Corinthian's collapse. The financial damage afflicted upon the low income students is still being felt.
Brightwood College, formerly Kaplan College, was a for-profit trade school operated by Education Corporation of America that operated a string of about 70 schools across the United States until abruptly ceasing operations in 2018. Brightwood was stung by a United States Government investigation into for-profit colleges, that alleged the school had encouraged fraud and misled potential applicants.
- In 2017, ACICS had lost its status with Dept. of Education, which makes the choice to seek accreditation from ACICS rather interesting.
- Accrediting Council for Independent Colleges & Schools. Archived from the original at acics.org.
- Chris Quintana and Shelly Conlon, This college was accredited by a DeVos-sanctioned group. We couldn’t find evidence of students or faculty. USA Today, 15 February 2020.
- Adam Harris, Federal Judge Hands a Victory to Embattled Accreditor. The Chronicle of Higher Education, 25 March 2018.
- Adam Harris, DeVos’s Education Dept. Relaxed Rules for For-Profits Under Accreditor That Closed. The Chronicle of Higher Education, 7 February 2018.
- Chris Quintana, Feds cancel reinstated accreditor after USA TODAY finds apparently fake college. USA Today, 3 June 2021.
- Andrew Kreighbaum, Embattled Accreditor Projects Losses After Closure of Member Colleges. Inside Higher Education, 4 June 2019.
- David Halperin, Blockbuster Lawsuit Claims Abusive Practices Persist at ITT Tech. Huffington Post, 21 January 2016.
- Lauren Camera, Lauren. Education Department Strips Authority of Largest For-Profit Accreditor. US News and World Report, 22 September 2016.
- Lauren Camera, ITT Tech Closes its Doors. US News and World Report, 6 September 2016.
- Niraj Warikoo, Undercover ICE recordings reveal tactics of fake university that led to 250 students arrested. USA Today, 7 January 2020.
- Lance Williams, How Corinthian Colleges, a for-profit behemoth, suddenly imploded. revealnews.org, 20 September 2016.
- Michael Hiltzik, Column: SEC gives former execs of Corinthian Colleges, a massive scam, slaps on the wrist. Los Angeles Times, 6 March 2019.
- Andrew Kreighbaum, Collapse of For-Profit Chain Long in the Making. Inside Higher Education, 6 December 2018.
- For-profit colleges: Undercover Testing Finds Colleges Encouraged Fraud and Engaged in Deceptive and Questionable Marketing Practices. United States Government Accountability Office, 4 August 2010.