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NSLDN Sues U.S. Department of Education Over Failure to Provide Records Relating to ACICS

Once Again, Betsy DeVos Has Refused to Release Critical Public Documents as She Considers the Troubled Accreditor’s Fate

WASHINGTON, D.C. (July 6, 2018) – Betsy DeVos is once again refusing to follow the law and release critical public documents related to embattled for-profit college accreditor ACICS. Today’s complaint, filed by the National Student Legal Defense Network (NSLDN) in the United States District Court for the District of Columbia, seeks a Court order requiring Secretary DeVos to release materials that ACICS submitted to the Department in May 2018 in support of its petition to be continued as a federally recognized accreditor of institutions of higher education.

Remarkably, this marks the fourth time in five months that NSLDN has been forced to sue in response to Secretary DeVos’s attempt to shield ACICS-related materials from the public. In addition to today’s complaint:

  • In February, Secretary DeVos refused to make ACICS’s initial application for recognition public in response to a FOIA request submitted by The Century Foundation (“TCF”). NSLDN sued on behalf of TCF and the Department ultimately released 18,000 pages of ACICS materials.
  • In April, Secretary DeVos refused to release her own staff's analysis of ACICS’s suitability to once again serve as an accreditor of institutions of higher education. NSLDN again sued on behalf of TCF and the Department ultimately released the analysis, which found that ACICS failed to meet 57 of 93 federal quality and management compliance standards, even as Secretary DeVos reinstated ACICS’s status as an accreditor, pending further review.
  • In May, Secretary DeVos refused to make an additional ACICS submission (known as the “Part II submission”) public. NSLDN, together with the Harvard Project on Predatory Student Lending, filed suit. The case remains pending and the Department has yet to provide a complete response to NSLDN’s FOIA request.

This pattern of Secretary DeVos shielding ACICS’s materials is extremely troubling and unlawful. Despite its abysmal track record, ACICS is vying to continue operating as a gatekeeper for billions in federal financial aid dollars. “Secretary DeVos clearly wants this critical public process to take place behind closed doors,” said Alex Elson, Senior Counsel at NSLDN. “NSLDN is committed to protecting students and taxpayers to make sure that does not happen.”