Democratic Senators Press Secretary DeVos To Publicly Release Documents Being Used By Deadbeat For-Profit Accreditor To Petition For Federal Recognition
Senators have been leading critics of ACICS, which accredited now defunct Corinthian, ITT Tech, and Westwood Colleges
WASHINGTON – Following Education Secretary Betsy DeVos’ decision to sign an order to restore the federal recognition of the Accrediting Council for Independent Colleges and Schools’ (ACICS), U.S. Senators Dick Durbin (D-IL), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), and Sherrod Brown (D-OH) called on the U.S. Department of Education (ED) to immediately release the documents being used by ACICS to petition for recognition. The order from Secretary DeVos stated that ACICS will retain its status as a federally recognized agency until she reaches a final decision on its 2016 application. ACICS must file a written submission and further exhibits to be considered by the department before May 30, 2018.
“Given the ongoing lack of confidence we have in your Department’s oversight of colleges and accreditors and the shaken faith of students and taxpayers in the accreditation system—as well as ACICS’ undisputed record of failure to carry out its responsibilities as a federally-recognized accrediting agency—transparency in this case is of utmost importance,” the Senators wrote to U.S. Department of Education Secretary Betsy DeVos.
In September 2016, the Education Department made a decision to withdraw federal recognition from ACICS following a recommendation from the independent National Advisory Committee on Institutional Quality and Integrity. At that time, Durbin and four of his Senate colleagues called on ED to take steps to protect students and taxpayers.
When ACICS lost federal recognition, it was the nation’s largest accreditor of for-profit colleges. The loss of recognition required approximately 250 schools that were accredited by ACICS to receive new accreditation from a federally recognized accreditor in order to remain eligible for Title IV federal student aid.
Full text of the letter is available here and below:
April 10, 2018
Dear Secretary DeVos:
We write to request the immediate release of Accrediting Council for Independent Colleges and Schools’ (ACICS) documents being used to petition for recognition by the U.S. Department of Education (“Department”) under the Order of the Secretary in Docket No. 16-44-0.
Publicly releasing the information submitted by ACICS in January 2016 in the Part II submission documents that you are now examining is essential to ensuring the Department’s review process is appropriately transparent.
While the March 23, 2018 decision of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia found that the Department must review ACICS’ Part II submission of documents, the court did not address the relevant policy and process questions now at stake. During ACICS’ previous petition for recognition, thousands of pages of documents were made available by the Department for public inspection and comment.
Additionally, earlier this year the Department tried to keep ACICS’ application for renewal secret, which was later the subject of a Freedom of Information Act request, subsequent lawsuit, and court order overturning this unreasonable restriction. It is now incumbent upon the Department to voluntarily maintain transparency in the recognition process. Therefore, we request that you publicly release the Part II submission documents, which includes the 27-page narrative responding to each of the Department’s questions regarding specific recognition criteria and approximately 36,000 additional pages of documentation filed by ACICS.
Given the ongoing lack of confidence we have in your Department’s oversight of colleges and accreditors and the shaken faith of students and taxpayers in the accreditation system—as well as ACICS’ undisputed record of failure to carry out its responsibilities as a federally-recognized accrediting agency—transparency in this case is of utmost importance.
Please respond to this request by April 17, 2018. Thank you for your attention to this urgent matter.
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