For-Profit Group Seeks Reprieve for ACICS Colleges

Career Education Colleges and Universities (CECU), the main lobbying group representing for-profit colleges, called on Congress this week to give schools that were previously approved by the now-defunct Accrediting Council for Independent Colleges and Schools (ACICS) more time to find a new accreditor, reported Inside Higher Ed.

In 2016, the Obama administration terminated federal recognition of ACICS—a national accreditor for roughly 270 institutions, mostly for-profits—accusing the accrediting agency of inadequately overseeing the failed Corinthian Colleges and ITT Technical Institute. ACICS has since challenged the decision in court and also sought to have its recognition restored, arguing that it has fundamentally changed.

The Obama administration's move to terminate recognition set off an 18-month time frame, under federal law, for ACICS-approved colleges to find a new accreditor or lose access to federal funding. That time period ends in June, and can only be extended through congressional action, Inside Higher Ed reported. A Senate committee in September voted to back an 18-month extension, but that bill has not advanced.

In a letter this week to congressional leaders, CECU President and CEO Steve Gunderson wrote that at least 155 for-profit schools, enrolling more than 235,000 students, relied on ACICS' stamp of approval and had not yet secured accreditation elsewhere. Students at those colleges "will be at risk of losing their access to education and completion of their degrees if Congress does not act," he wrote.

"The only way we can protect the more than 235,000 students attending these institutions is to give the schools and the accreditors more time," wrote Gunderson.

Some Democrats, including Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), have opposed efforts to grant such a reprieve, arguing the colleges that still have not found a new accreditor in the past year and a half represent "the bottom of the barrel," Politico reported.


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