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Student Defense and Democracy Forward Condemn Delinquent Accreditor After ACICS Withdraws Application for Recognition

WASHINGTON, DC – Student Defense and Democracy Forward released statements today responding to the Accrediting Council for Independent Colleges and Schools (ACICS) withdrawing its application for recognition by the Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA). Student Defense and Democracy Forward filed a class action lawsuit against the Department of Education in June 2019, over the Department’s unlawful recognition of ACICS, which allowed failing schools to continue enrolling students and accepting federal student aid. DeVos is set to address CHEA’s annual conference in Washington, D.C. tomorrow.

“This latest development is just further proof that Secretary DeVos’s illegal recognition of ACICS was irresponsible and unjustified,” said Student Defense Litigation Director Eric Rothschild. “Thanks to DeVos’s special treatment, ACICS will continue to act as a lifeline for many of the worst for-profit schools in the nation -- despite the fact that ACICS itself clearly cannot pass muster in a fair evaluation process. The real victims in this ongoing travesty are the students enrolled at failing, predatory schools, who are spending precious time and money at institutions that should have closed long ago.”

“Secretary DeVos unlawfully reinstated an accreditor whose own community of evaluators deemed it incapable of meeting basic standards,” said Democracy Forward Counsel John Lewis. “This is further evidence that Secretary DeVos is more interested in protecting ACICS's ability to prop up predatory for-profit colleges than addressing the debt burden placed on students seeking a better life for themselves and their families.”


ACICS was stripped of its ability to accredit schools in December 2016 for “pervasive noncompliance” with federal student protection rules. In April 2018, Sec. DeVos, without legal authority or any substantive review process, extended ACICS’s recognition, allowing the failing schools accredited by ACICS to continue enrolling students and accepting federal student aid. In doing so, DeVos violated federal law, including the Administrative Procedure Act.

ACICS has long served as the accreditor for many of the country’s most predatory for-profit institutions, allowing taxpayer funds in the form of federal student loans to flow to what Senator Warren’s office has called “some of the sleaziest actors in American higher education.” After the Department revoked ACICS’s recognition in December 2016, schools had an 18-month grace period to find a new accreditor before they would no longer be able to accept federal student aid. In fact, approximately 85 ACICS-accredited colleges were unable to find another accreditor because they failed to meet industry quality standards.

More information about Student Defense and Democracy Forward’s lawsuit is available here: Passut v. DeVos