In September of 2016, the US Department of Education officially declared that they'd lost confidence in the Accrediting Council for Independent Colleges and Schools (ACICS).
Chief of staff to the education secretary Emma Vadehra sent a letter to ACICS stating: “I am terminating the department's recognition of ACICS as a national recognized accrediting agency... ACICS's track record does not inspire confidence that it can address all of the problems effectively.”
ACICS had been under intense scrutiny since 2015 for backing some questionable for-profit institutions. Their endorsement of Corinthian Colleges, which collapsed in April of that year, is an example of their less than trustworthy history.
The Corinthian Crash
Corinthian Colleges, Inc. was a collection of schools purchased by a group of Wall Street Investors. CCI included such disparate entities as the American Motorcycle Institute and Western Business College. The group aimed to collect tuition from vulnerable low-income students with persistent telemarketing campaigns and ads during the Jerry Springer show.
CCI's timeline is littered with exaggerated promises about career potential and transferring credits. February 2015, fifteen former students went on “debt-strike.” They refused to pay loans racked up paying for their worthless Corinthian education. Two months later the US Department of Education fined CCI's Heald College 30 million for misleading students and loan agencies.
In less than two weeks, the whole organization shut down.
What Should You Do?
ACICS was responsible for accrediting both for-profit and non-profit schools, many of them were online schools or technical institutes that appealed to older learners.
For most parents, the closure of ACICS will not mean much except to make sure that the student your child is attending has a good accreditation program. If your child has been affected however, what should you do?
First of all, relax. It's surely a disturbing thing to learn your kid's school may lose its endorsement. He'll no longer be able to get federal aid. It's not a great statement about the overall quality of education at that institution.
Yet good schools have bad accreditors. They're not all Corinthian. If you did diligent research when helping your child pick a school, it's probably still doing a good job.
It's a good time for a review, though. Start with the ACICS Council Actions page. Look to see if it's in trouble. If it's in good standing, even with a dubious organization like ACICS, it shouldn't have a tough time finding new accreditation.
ACICS is appealing the declaration. The Department of Education will not hand down its final judgement for at least eighteen months. If ACICS ultimately gets fired, schools it accredited will have another eighteen months to find new support.
Contact the school and ask them what they are doing about ACICS. They should already be forming a plan just in case. A good educator will not let this disrupt the flow of education.
A shady school should be running scared. They are the reason ACICS has lost the DOE's trust. If you smell fear, they probably haven't been doing their job.
Should you switch schools? Not if it has been solid so far. If your student is within a year or two of graduating, stay the course. If your child graduates while the school is still accredited the degree or certificate will remain valid even if the school eventually closes.
A Better Path
Gain a firm understanding of what accreditation means. Schools that have achieved regional accreditation are typically more rigorous and are willing to accept credits from other regionally accredited schools.
Schools that have national accreditation do not always have to meet as rigorous requirements. This also means that regionally accredited schools often do not accept credit from a nationally accredited school. This spells trouble for the student who may want to transfer their credits or apply to graduate school at some point.
If your kid is looking at an ACICS accredited school, look elsewhere. You don't want to put your head in this beehive. He has many better education options.
If grades or finances are guiding your student to a vocational school, there are many to choose from. Do extra research, though. The ACICS scandal is exposing the fact that many for-profit schools make promises they can't deliver. They'll take your money and wish you luck.
Education isn't always about classes, degrees and tuition. Get down to the roots of what your child wants to do. Many good jobs have mentorship programs that pay while you learn. In this modern era, free learning is easy to find if you look.
With a plan, ambition and a curious mind, your student can be educated and successful without a for-profit school. Without a plan, ambition and a curious mind, he wouldn't be a success even with a degree from Harvard.
Has your student been affected by the closure of ITT Tech or another school accredited by ACICS? Follow this guide to find what's next.