- Education Secretary Betsy DeVos has again put off a decision about the fate of an accrediting body for which the Obama administration withdrew support due to concerns that the for-profit colleges it oversees were not being evaluated closely enough, Inside Higher Ed reported.
- DeVos restored federal recognition for the Accrediting Council for Independent Colleges and Schools (ACICS) soon after a federal court judge in March ruled that the Education Department under Obama had not reviewed key documents before its 2016 action to strip ACICS of its authority. Devos initially had until July to review the material and make a final ruling, and this week asked for a second delay, until Sept. 28, citing the "voluminous" nature of the material.
- Some critics say DeVos and the Trump administration are trying to deregulate for-profits and bolster ACICS despite the state investigations, lawsuits and consumer complaints that prompted the Obama administration's action to disenfranchise it. That action strictly limits federal aid to students attending ACICS-accredited institutions.
ACICS, which was criticized in an internal Ed Department report released in June for not meeting federal standards for accreditors, has been under fire for years. In April 2016, 13 state attorneys general urged the department not renew its authorization because ACICS had not protected students from "profit-seeking institutions offering training of no educational value." Lawsuits have been filed against its for-profit member colleges for fraudulent practices, including in 2016 against Corinthian Colleges, which paid recruiters incentives based on how many students it enrolled.
Critics charge that top leaders of the for-profit colleges under investigation for wrongdoing sit on ACICS boards and committees, but some defenders say it is not unusual for accrediting bodies to be member-driven.
If ACICS loses its authorization, which gives it oversight over higher ed institutions that offer professional, technical and occupational programs, the critical flow of federal Title IV funds to thousands of students attending those colleges could be impeded.