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Embattled Accreditor Projects Losses After Closure of Member Colleges

June 4, 2019
 
 

Michelle Edwards, president of the Accrediting Council for Independent Colleges and Schools, said Monday that the organization faces losses of $2.1 million this year, after the closure of a chain of member colleges and unexpected legal fees.

Edwards said ACICS does not expect to reach the break-even point until 2023 at the earliest.

After having its federal recognition restored by the Trump administration last year, the accreditor is under review by the Council for Higher Education Accreditation’s recognition committee. Edwards and her team answered questions from the committee Monday. While ACICS needs federal approval in order for member colleges to access Title IV student aid, CHEA recognition can affect decisions by state authorizers, specialized accrediting agencies, licensing boards and some institutional authorities abroad.

ACICS was targeted for scrutiny by the Obama administration and congressional Democrats after the collapse of Corinthian Colleges and ITT Tech, two for-profit college chains overseen by the accreditor. Late last year, another for-profit chain accredited by ACICS, Education Corporation of America, abruptly closed its doors.

Other colleges sought recognition with new accreditors or closed their doors after the Obama administration pulled federal recognition from ACICS in 2016.

ACICS has taken cost-cutting measures like moving to a smaller office space, but Edwards said the organization can’t simply reduce expenses to close the gap.

Also on Monday, two former students of Virginia College, which was operated by ECA, filed a class action lawsuit against Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, arguing she illegally restored federal recognition of ACICS. The students asked a federal court to void federal loans taken out to attend ECA colleges after June 12, when their access to federal aid would have expired without intervention by DeVos.

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