An analysis of key actions 10 institutional accrediting agencies took over five years found a "highly uneven and inconsistent system of sanctions." The report from the Center for American Progress, which has previously chided accreditors for their oversight of poor-performing colleges, found that national accreditors are more likely to sanction their member colleges, but that regional agencies keep institutions on sanction for longer periods of time. The group recommended "clearer, common rules of the road about sanction terminology, definitions and use."
University of Arizona President Ann Weaver Hart has opted not to pursue an extension of her current contract, a decision coming months after she drew flak for deciding to join the board of for-profit college company DeVry Education Group.
Hart, who took over as Arizona’s president in July 2012, still has two years left on her contract. She’s slated to step down from the presidency on June 30, 2018. Her decision came after she realized she’s been a university president for 14 years, she said in a statement. Hart was previously president at Temple University and the University of New Hampshire.
“I look forward to returning to full-time faculty work as a teacher, scholar and citizen of the university,” she said.
Hart’s decision, announced Friday, comes after she was sharply criticized in March for joining the Board of Directors for Illinois-based DeVry Education Group, which operates DeVry University. The criticism followed the Federal Trade Commission filing a lawsuit against DeVry, alleging it made deceptive claims about job placement rates and graduate wages.
Arizona alumni, employees and students’ parents complained about Hart joining DeVry, and she was questioned by Arizona’s Faculty Senate. But she defended her role, saying she would advocate for quality at DeVry and try to make education available to students who cannot attend Arizona.
The Arizona Board of Regents plans to start a national search for Hart’s replacement this fall. The board came out in support of her decision not to seek a new contract, with Chairman Jay Heiler releasing a statement.
“President Hart has conferred with me and others throughout the spring regarding her plans and her contract,” it said. “The decision not to seek an extension is hers, and true to her character she has made it in full consideration of both her personal aspirations and her institutional commitments.”
The U.S. Department of Education wants ITT Technical Institutes to increase its letter of credit from 10 percent to 20 percent after the institution's accreditor questioned its integrity, according to a department letter sent Monday to the for-profit institution.
Because of the increased risk of ACICS revoking accreditation, the Education Department determined the surety on file from ITT must increase from $79,707,879 to $123,646,182, according to the letter to ITT's chief executive officer, Kevin Modany. A letter of credit is collateral the government asks colleges to set aside when officials have concerns that an institution may be unable or unwilling to pay back money it owes to the government. The letter of credit would assure the government that if ITT Tech closes or terminates classes, funds will be available for refunds, teach-out facilities and institutional obligations to the department.
American Career Institute, a now-closed for-profit institution that operated in Massachusetts and Maryland, admitted to engaging in deceptive schemes and violating state law, according to the state's attorney general. The AG's office sued ACI in 2013, and a consent judgment was issued last week.
"Our office has achieved an unprecedented result against a predatory for-profit school that we hope will yield long overdue relief for thousands of ACI students in Massachusetts," said Attorney General Maura Healey in a news release. "We look forward to working with the U.S. Department of Education to secure immediate loan forgiveness for those affected and will continue to pursue institutions who engage in this illegal and unfair conduct."
ACI falsified student records, misrepresented graduation and job placement rates, deceived prospective students about employment, and unlawfully enrolled and collected tuition from students who did not qualify for federal loans and who didn't meet the minimum education requirements.
The AG's office is requesting the Education Department cancel all federal loans that were taken out by students who attended ACI from at least January 2010 to when the institution closed in January 2013. They estimate that more than 1,400 students are entitled to loan discharges.
The judgment against ACI also called for more than $25 million in penalties, fees, relief and restitution. However, the amounts are largely uncollectible and suspended as a result of the school's insolvency, according to the AG's office. The office was able to obtain more than $2 million in discharges of private student debts owed to ACI in a separate court action, which is expected to help more than 700 former students.
The Association of Private Sector Colleges and Universities (APSCU) has changed its name to Career Education Colleges and Universities. The governing board for the group, which is the for-profit sector's primary trade association, voted for the change Monday in Orlando, Fla., where the association is holding its annual meeting. Six years ago, APSCU was dubbed the Career College Association.
Many colleges and companies in the for-profit sector have struggled with slumping enrollments and revenue, while several face investigations or lawsuits from states and federal agencies. APSCU also has been buffeted by the industry's problems, announcing last year that big changes were on the way -- beyond the name change. For example, the new CECU said it will court nonprofit colleges as members (a handful of nonprofits currently belong to the group).
The rebranded group will seek to represent any college that works on career education, said Steve Gunderson, CECU's president and CEO.
"Our sector and our association will be even more focused on career education and the necessary work in government relations, leadership, research and communications," he said in a written statement. "We will be the voice and vision of postsecondary career education.”
Iowa's Department of Education notified Bridgepoint Education -- the parent company of Ashford University -- that the state's approving agency would no longer approve the institution's programs for G.I. Bill benefits after June 30, according to a corporate filing.
That's because the company is planning to close the Ashford University campus in Clinton, Iowa. The for-profit institution currently has about 6,250 students who receive G.I. Bill benefits.
Ashford is applying for approval to continue receiving these benefits through the California state agency in an effort to prevent the disruption of benefits to veteran students before the June deadline.
"At this time we cannot be certain approval through the California State Approving Agency will be obtained by June 30, 2016 and any potential delays or gaps in coverage for G.I. Bil benefits, including as a result of following the (Iowa approving agency's) recommendation to seek approval elsewhere, could have a material adverse effect on current and future military student enrollment and the company's revenues, financial condition, cash flows and results of operations," according to the filing.
Bridgepoint has been faced with a few investigations in the last year. Last week, the company announced it had received a second subpoena from the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission related to the company's scholarship and institutional loan programs, as well as investigations by the California attorney general's office and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.