On December 12, the Secretary of Education upheld the decision of the Senior Department Official to cease recognition of sham accreditor ACICS. The next step will be for ACICS to waste more taxpayer resources by filing a frivolous lawsuit challenging this decision.
Today the U.S. Department of Education finally took the initial steps to revoke its recognition of the sham accrediting agency ACICS. Not surprisingly, ACICS plans to appeal the decision, but everyone concerned with and outraged by the predatory for-profit education ‘education’ industry has long urged ED to take this action. CCI was scamming students and the government for many years with the full approval of ACICS, as was ITT Tech. Students who were victimized by these predatory organizations continue to suffer. All of these students would be better served by public community colleges, which are making great efforts to provide accessible and affordable educations.
ITT Tech announced that it is closing its campuses and discontinuing ‘academic’ operations effective immediately. This announcement followed closely upon the Department of Education’s action cutting off Title IV funding to new ITT Tech students. It is unclear whether ACICS’s efforts to appear to be cracking down on ITT Tech played any role in the decision.
Last week, the Department of Education announced that it was barring ITT Tech from enrolling new Title IV students. A letter from Ed to Kevin Modany, ITT’s CEO, lays out the details. The connection between this announcement and the recent ACICS show-cause notice to ITT Tech is unclear. It is arguable that ACICS may feel the need to flex whatever muscle it may have to demonstrate that it is not an industry-controlled rubber stamp that permits predatory for-profit institutions to operate. Rumors abound that ACICS evaluators have paid unannounced visits to ITT Tech campuses, although this blogger can state from experience (see prior postings) that these visits, whether announced or not, have relatively little value because the evaluators see only what the campus administrators let them see. It is not unusual to generate documents specifically for the visit, documents which suggest compliance with various rules, when in fact there is little or no compliance. So, once again, we are seeing a ‘dog-and-pony show’ from ACICS, while ITT Tech students wait helplessly and perhaps hopelessly, rightfully concerned that their school is going the way of Corinthian Colleges, Inc. Students who are trying to overcome obstacles are having a new one thrown up in front of them. The critical factor in all of this will be how ITT Tech’s students are treated once their school ceases operations. The credits they have earned have little to no actual value, and cannot be transferred in most instances to legitimate schools, so the solution of waiving the student loans, while appropriate, doesn’t come close to making these student victims whole.
The decline of ACICS continues. As its accredited members seek other accrediting agencies, what future can there be for this beleaguered organization whose only purpose was to facilitate the victimization of American taxpayers and students?
Following the vote referenced above, ACICS sent the following message to its member schools.
“June 24, 2016
Dear Member Institutions and Colleagues:
The National Advisory Committee on Institutional Quality and Integrity (NACIQI) voted yesterday, Thursday, June 23, 2016 to send to the Senior Department Official (SDO) of the U.S. Department of Education a recommendation to deny recognition to ACICS. The SDO has 90 days to make a decision, based in part on the recommendations from the Committee and the Department staff, which also recommended a denial of recognition. ACICS will continue to exhaust its opportunities to inform the SDO before the record is closed. As more information becomes available, it will be shared with all ACICS colleges and schools.
It should be noted that students, graduates, employers and other community members provided articulate and supportive testimony to the Committee regarding the value and quality of education received at ACICS colleges and schools. That support fortified the efforts to secure a favorable recommendation from NACIQI, and are much appreciated.
Anthony S. Bieda
Executive in Charge”
Yesterday, Department of Education analysts released a report recommending that ACICS should lose its status as an accreditor of institutions eligible to receive federal financial aid funding. This report follows upon the heels of strident criticism of ACICS over its failure to take action against its member institutions such as Corinthian Colleges, Inc., which collapsed even though it was fully accredited by ACICS. This blogger has previously described the sham evaluation process that ACICS member institutions undergo to earn and retain accreditation. As the Chronicle suggests, ACICS may sue the government, depending on how the report is acted upon, but the discovery process in any such litigation would reveal that ACICS does not take its responsibility seriously, and that it serves no purpose other than to enable for-profit machines such as Corinthian and others to stay in business, to the benefit of investors and to the detriment of students and taxpayers.
The Accrediting Council for Independent Colleges and Schools, which has been the subject of prior postings on this blog, continues to be bombarded with criticism. The primary claim, bluntly stated, is that ACICS accreditation is a sham, going hand-in-hand with the efforts of for-profit ‘educational’ institutions to bilk the government and unsuspecting (or perhaps not so unsuspecting) students out of billions of dollars. ACICS has promised reform, and has halted the acceptance of new members pending that reform.
Not surprisingly, the criticism continues. On June 6, the Center for American Progress released a report condemning ACICS for failing to take action against accredited members that were under state or federal investigation for misconduct. The gist of the report is summarized in this statement: “In total, these results strongly suggest that ACICS is incapable of acting as a sufficient assessor of college quality and that its repeated poor judgment leaves millions of students and billions of taxpayer dollars at risk.”
On February 26, I wrote about the deceptive nature of ACICS Director Albert Gray’s statement that ACICS has a meaningful conflict of interest policy in place. Gray has now resigned, and a new leader is being sought for the embattled organization, but major problems remain at the ground level, where the actual reviews of member institutions are performed.
As I wrote, the individuals who review an ACICS member organization are, for the most part, employed by other ACICS member organizations. The reviews are largely superficial and meaningless. They are anything but rigorous, and there is a common understanding that if I find something wrong at your institution today, you’ll be on a team visiting my institution tomorrow, and there will be payback. The site visit teams need more independent members who are not affiliated with any ACICS member organization.
Today the U.S. Circuit Court for the D.C. Circuit affirmed a lower court ruling that the Department of Education’s Gainful Employment Rule is reasonable. Is SCOTUS likely to grant cert if the Association of Private Sector Colleges and Universities appeals?
The Sacramento Bee reports that UC-Davis Chancellor Linda Katehi has resigned her seat on the board of the for-profit Devry Education Group. Her seat on that board represented a failed effort by Devry to seek legitimacy by paying respected academics to serve and, ostensibly, to provide advice on the academic direction of the company.
Similarly, Corinthian Colleges, Inc., whose spectacular collapse surprised even its harshest critics, boasted Leon Panetta, Marc Morial, and Timothy Sullivan, on its board.
These board members, who were paid for their association with the for-profits, may or may not have contributed ideas of value to the institutions, but they seem not to have been effective ways to save the institutions from criticism and attack.
How much longer will University of Arizona’s Ann Weaver Hart remain associated with the for-profit education industry by serving on Devry’s board?