U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos told a House education appropriations subcommittee that the department has launched an investigation of the Accrediting Council for Independent Colleges and Schools’ accreditation of a South Dakota university that appears to have no faculty, staff or classrooms.
Testifying before Congress Thursday morning, DeVos was asked by the subcommittee’s Democratic chairwoman, Rosa DeLauro of Connecticut, about a USA Today report earlier this month on the accreditation of Reagan National University.
Reporters visiting addresses for Reagan National University found a darkened office suite behind locked doors at one location. At another location, they found an empty suite save for some insulation scattered on the floor.
“I was not happy to read that,” DeVos said. “We have an investigation launched and we’re on it.”
DeVos restored federal recognition of ACICS in 2018. The Obama administration in 2016 stripped recognition from the accrediting body, which oversaw collapsed for-profit chains Corinthian Colleges and ITT Tech.
DeLauro at the hearing criticized the Trump administration’s proposed education budget. “You would potentially put higher education out of the financial grasp of students by flat funding the Pell Grant,” she said. “Forty percent of undergraduate students, or seven million students, rely on Pell Grants to afford higher education. But while Pell covered 79 percent of the average costs of tuition, fees, room and board at a four-year public institution in 1975, it covers only 29 percent today. Our students cannot afford for us to stand pat like this.”
DeLauro also told DeVos the House’s 2020 budget included a number of loan-servicing reforms, including a requirement that the department allocate new student accounts based on the past performance and capacity of servicers. “To be direct, I will need to see how the department implements the new requirements as I review your request for next year,” DeLauro said.