ED Ceases to Recognize Accrediting Council for Independent Colleges and Schools

Secretary King Upholds Recommendation to No Longer Recognize the Accrediting Council for Independent Colleges and Schools as an Accreditor

On June 15, 2016, accreditation staff at the U.S. Department of Education (ED) released a report recommending ED no longer recognize the Accrediting Council for Independent Colleges and Schools (ACICS) as an agency that can provide schools with a seal of approval for educational quality which, in turn, makes schools eligible to participate in federal student aid programs.

The staff report highlighted widespread and systemic problems with the accrediting agency, including lack of oversight of licensure rates, financial stability, falsification of job placement rates by ACICS-accredited institutions, the efficacy of those who serve on the evaluation teams, and student complaints.

On June 23, 2016, the National Advisory Committee on Institutional Quality and Improvement (NACIQI), an independent, bipartisan advisory committee appointed by Congress, also voted to recommend that ED cease to recognize ACICS. On Sept. 22, 2016, the Senior Department Official (SDO) upheld the NACIQI’s and ED staff’s recommendations and decided that ED will no longer recognize ACICS.

On Oct. 21, 2016, ACICS appealed the SDO’s decision. The appeal was forwarded to the Secretary of Education, John B. King, Jr., for a decision. On Dec. 12, 2016, the Secretary upheld the SDO’s decision and the recommendations of NACIQI and ED staff to cease recognition of ACICS. His decision is considered final and officially starts an 18-month timeframe for institutions to find another accreditor in order to continue participating in federal student aid programs.

Additional information about this decision, including a Q&A for students attending schools accredited by ACICS, is available at ed.gov/acics.