TRENTON – Attorney General Gurbir S. Grewal has moved to protect New Jersey students by joining a coalition of states in opposing an attempt by the Accrediting Council for Independent Colleges and Schools (ACICS) to regain its status as a nationally-recognized accreditor. ACICS lost its national recognition in 2016 due to its “pervasive noncompliance” with federal law and oversight failures that enabled fraud by predatory for-profit schools.
In response to the U.S. Department of Education’s call for written comments on ACICS’s application to restore its national recognition, Attorney General Grewal has joined a group of 20 attorneys general in a letter calling for the federal government to reject ACICS’s application.
According to the letter, ACICS’s oversight failures include its decision to extend accreditation to schools like the now-defunct Corinthian Colleges, Inc. Thousands of New Jersey residents attended schools operated by Corinthian Colleges including Everest Institute, Everest College, Everest University, Heald College, and Wyotech. ACICS continued accrediting Corinthian even after upwards of 20 state and federal agencies initiated investigations into Corinthian’s fraud, and up until the day Corinthian declared bankruptcy.
In its letter, the coalition notes that the Department of Education terminated ACICS’s recognition just over a year ago due to ACICS’s pervasive oversight failures, so “any attempt by ACICS to become nationally recognized once again should be treated with great skepticism.” Under the Department’s regulations, the attorneys general assert, ACICS cannot meet threshold eligibility requirements for receiving national recognition.
“Many people in New Jersey and across the nation spent their hard-earned money and incurred significant student loan debt by enrolling in schools accredited by ACICS, only to find that the schools they’d chosen were not as advertised, and they were never going to receive the education they paid for,” said Attorney General Grewal.
“Today, many of these same students are still struggling with debt and working to get their educations and lives back on track,” Grewal said. “As an accrediting agency, ACICS was entrusted by the U.S. Department of Education to act as a watchdog and ensure that only schools meeting certain standards of quality were accredited. ACICS betrayed that trust. Any overture by ACICS to regain its federal recognition before it corrects the deficiencies in its accreditation program should be rejected.”
Accreditors serve a vital role in ensuring that schools provide students with an education that meets minimum standards of quality. They function as gatekeepers, protecting students from abuse by institutions that offer education of little-to-no value. When accreditors fail to fulfill this responsibility, they enable abusive schools to engage in misconduct that can be devastating to students.
“ACICS’s previous stint as a nationally recognized accreditor provides a stark illustration of the damage done to both students and taxpayers when accreditors fail to fulfill their oversight responsibilities” the coalition letter notes. “During these years, ACICS willingly accredited predatory schools that left students across the country mired in debt and without the quality education they were promised.”
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