- The Accrediting Council for Independent Colleges and Schools is planning to shut down operations by March 2024, it said Tuesday, shortly after the U.S. Department of Education revoked recognition of the accreditor.
- ACICS, whose future has been in question for years, said it will not appeal the Education Department’s decision last month to pull its recognition. The department revoked recognition after determining that the accreditor continually failed to come into compliance with federal standards, sending the institutions under its purview scrambling to avoid losing access to federal financial aid.
- In a statement, ACICS maintained that it has been in “substantial compliance with any objective, consistent, and reasonable interpretation” of Education Department criteria. It plans to work with the 44 institutions under its purview to prepare for its dissolution.
Tuesday’s announcement ends a yearslong battle over whether ACICS should be allowed to greenlight colleges to receive federal financial aid. Many policy advocates had called on the Education Department to end its recognition of ACICS, arguing that it approved institutions with abysmal student outcomes.
ACICS largely oversaw for-profit colleges. That includes ITT Technical Institute, which collapsed in 2016 after the Education Department restricted its federal financial aid access.
The Education Department ended ACICS recognition Aug. 19, citing noncompliance with standards such as having adequate resources and staff expertise. ACICS pushed back against those findings Tuesday, asserting that student outcomes had been improving at its institutions as the accreditor sought to enhance its processes.
“ACICS was serving its role as an accreditor, providing an important service to institutions of higher education, the students they serve and ultimately, the communities in which they live and work,” ACICS President and CEO Michelle Edwards said in a statement. “Nevertheless, the time has come to initiate the steps necessary to dissolve the corporation.”
Institutions accredited by ACICS will have 18 months to find a new accreditor or they will lose access to Title IV federal financial aid.
During that time, the Education Department is also placing strict requirements on those colleges that could make it harder for them to continue operating. Those include a limitation on new enrollments and a mandate that they inform students they could lose access to Title IV funding.
ACICS said it currently oversees 44 institutions with 67 campuses. Around two-thirds receive federal financial aid. While the Education Department’s decision to revoke ACICS’ recognition doesn’t directly affect the institutions that don't receive federal financial aid, they may want to seek a new accreditor to maintain compliance with state licensing agencies and other oversight bodies, according to Tuesday's announcement.
The accreditor’s decision to dissolve its operations comes after a yearslong fight to maintain its status as a recognized accreditor. The Education Department originally revoked the status in December 2016, a decision that ACICS successfully challenged in court.
Although it regained Education Department recognition in 2018, ACICS continued to be found in noncompliance. In a letter explaining the August decision, U.S. Deputy Secretary of Education Cindy Marten said ACICS had several opportunities to come into compliance since 2016.