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State officials to feds: Don’t let agency that approved predatory, failing for-profit schools give accreditations again

Corinthin CollegeTwenty attorneys general are asking the U.S. Department of Education to reject the Accrediting Council for Independent Colleges and Schools’ application to get back its status as a nationally recognized accreditor.

They cite the accreditor’s “extreme and far-reaching oversight failures” and the serious harm it caused students and taxpayers across the country by enabling fraud and abuse by predatory for-profit schools such as Corinthian Colleges in a letter sent Tuesday to U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos.

"For years, thousands of students were duped into pursuing degree programs that essentially had no real world value — saddling many New Yorkers with mountains of debt and very few job prospects,” said New York Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman. “As an accreditor, ACICS had a basic responsibility to protect those students but, instead, allowed them to be taken advantage of by predatory for-profit colleges.”

DeVos must do her job to protect students by rejecting ACICS’s petition, Schneiderman said.

“ACICS thoroughly failed students before and it cannot be entrusted with that responsibility again,” he said.

In response to the department’s request for written comments, attorneys general said that the department terminated ACICS’s recognition about a year ago due to ACICS’s oversight failures, so any attempt by ACICS to become nationally recognized again “should be treated with great skepticism.” Under the department’s regulations, the attorneys general said, ACICS can’t meet the eligibility requirements for receiving national recognition.

Accreditors ensure that schools provide students with an education that meets minimum standards. They’re gatekeepers, protecting students from institutions that offer education of little-to-no value. When accreditors fail, they enable abusive schools to engage in misconduct that can be devastating to students.

ACICS’s oversight failures include its decision to extend accreditation to schools such as the Manhattan School of Computer Technology, along with a large number of campuses operated by the now-defunct Corinthian Colleges, the attorneys general letter said. ACICS continued accrediting Corinthian even after 20 state and federal agencies initiated investigations into Corinthian’s fraud and up until the day Corinthian declared bankruptcy.

“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 letter said. “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.”

The letter was signed by the attorneys general of California, Connecticut, the District of Columbia, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Iowa, Kentucky, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Jersey, North Carolina, New York, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Virginia, and Washington.

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