Controversial Accreditor Freezes Membership

June 6, 2016

The Accrediting Council for Independent Colleges and Schools today will announce a temporary halt in accepting new applications for colleges seeking to become accredited, as well as several other changes, including requirements seeking to ensure more accuracy in self-reported data from member colleges.

The council is a national accrediting agency that oversees many for-profit institutions. It's been under fire lately, due in part for accrediting Corinthian Colleges until the large chain collapsed amid a spate of lawsuits and regulatory challenges. A group of state attorneys general have called on the federal government to drop its recognition of ACICS, as have a coalition of consumer, higher education and labor organizations. The U.S. Department of Education is slated to consider the accreditor's recognition later this month.

ACICS appears to be taking the threat seriously. Albert Gray, the council's president and CEO, stepped down in April. And the accreditor shortly thereafter tightened the screws on ITT Technical Institutes.

“The ACICS Board of Directors is determined to restore trust and confidence in the accreditation process, strengthen ACICS’ oversight of member institutions and ensure that students are receiving a quality education that will put them on [a] path to employment,” Anthony Bieda, the council's executive in charge, said in a written statement. “As we assess the content, structure and effectiveness of all policies and resources, no stone will be left unturned. Every aspect of the agency must be re-evaluated, fortified and enhanced.”

The freeze on new member applications is effective immediately, Bieda said, and will be in place until the accreditor "is satisfied that its program of assessment and review protects student interests, enforces high standards of quality and contributes to the public good."

Other announced changes include:

  • Creation of an ethics board to act directly on potential conflicts of interest, including with ACICS board members;
  • A new data integrity standard that gives ACICS greater explicit authority to sanction programs and institutions that misrepresent their performance through student retention, placement and licensure data;
  • A review of institutions’ written plans for recruiting and admitting students;
  • Greater public disclosure and enforcement of probation standards; and
  • An increase in the frequency and intensity of interim on-site evaluations.
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