What's Next for the Accrediting Council for Independent College & Schools (ACICS)

Update: Education Secretary Betsy DeVos is restoring the federal recognition of the Accrediting Council for Independent Colleges and Schools. There will be a final decision about its fate after reviewing its 2016 application. Read the report published in InsideHigherEd.

The Accrediting Council for Independent College and Schools (ACICS) has been informed by the Department of Education that it plans on terminating its status as a nationally recognized accrediting agency.

A non-profit accrediting agency established in 1912, ACICS is responsible for accrediting hundreds of institutions of higher learning, for-profit and non-profit, that grant both undergraduate and graduate degrees.

ACICS came under intense scrutiny lately after the fall of two colleges the institution accredited: Corinthian Colleges in 2015, and ITT Technical Institute in 2016.

After a review, ACICS was found to be in non-compliance with regulatory criteria in 21 areas. 

Some of the areas ACICS was found to be in non-compliance include:

  • Acceptance of the accrediting institutions standards, policies and decisions by other education institutions. (34 CFR 602.13)
  • Resources to carry out administrative and fiscal responsibilities. (34 CFR 602.15)
  • Rigorous accreditation standards regarding student achievement & response to student complaints (34 CFR 602.16)
  • Application of standards in regards to making an accrediting decision. (34 CFR 602.17) 

A letter from the Department of Education stated:

These violations reveal fundamental problems with the agency's functions as an accreditor. For example--and this list is not exhaustive--the staff report outlines major problems with: the rigor of the agency's accreditation and preaccreditation standards and its application of those standards (34 C.F.R. 602.16(a) and 602.17); its monitoring of the institutions that it accredits (34 C.F.R. 602.19(b); and the enforcement of its own accrediting standards (34 C.F.R. 602.20).

What does this mean?

ACICS may try to appeal the decision, but in the meantime thousands of students who are enrolled in the institutions accredited by the agency are left in an uncertain situation.
While the appeal is pending, ACICS retains its federal recognition and accreditation responsibilities.

If ACICS is not successful in their appeal the majority of these students will have to find other institutions to complete their degree. There will be some that will be able to complete their degree at their school if they have progressed far enough and have enough time to complete their needed credits before their school must close due to lack of accreditation.

ACICS is considered a national accreditation agency, which means some students will have a hard time getting their credits to transfer. Practically speaking, regional accreditation institutions tend to be more rigorous and strict, thus schools with regional accreditation often do not accept credits from nationally accredited schools

Have you been affected by the recent closure of ITT Technical Institute or Ashford University? Use this resource brought to you by College Factual and Student Veterans of America.