- The Accrediting Council for Independent Colleges and Schools (ACICS) drew national headlines in late 2016 after the U.S. Department of Education revoked its authorization to accredit for-profit colleges and universities after a wave of lawsuits against several of its member schools for fraudulent practices against students. The agency is now seeking reauthorization as the Trump Administration is seeking to rollback regulations against for-profit institutions, according to The New York Times.
- ACICS oversaw nearly 240 schools that received $4.7 billion in federal funds prior to its deauthorization. The Obama administration approved more than 30,000 claims from former students who said they were lied to about job prospects and the value of degrees. ACICS officials say that its decommissioning as a regulator of colleges' eligibility for aid was done without due process.
- Critics say that reinstatement for ACICS could derail accountability in the higher ed oversight space. “If they reverse this decision, it will tell accreditors that you can fight back and politically try to retain your eligibility,” Robert Shireman, a former deputy undersecretary at the Education Department, told The New York Times. “And more important, it will tell accreditors that there are no consequences if you do a horrible job.”
There is merit to the concept of providing oversight to all forms of business that receive federal funds through contracts or disbursements to borrowers. But unlike agencies that do business with vendors and can report on work done or the quality of the same, students and postgraduate outcomes present a different form of metric-based accountability.
First, federal aid is not given to institutions; rather, it's doled out as loans that are funneled to institutions through student enrollment. Students are on the hook to repay the government, regardless of the degree they earn or its capacity to help them get a job. And some students who take out loans never graduate.
Much in the way the there are strong review processes for small business and federal home loans, some argue that the same should be in place for educational borrowing. For college leaders, the responsibility is to adapt to and advocate for any position the government takes on the issue.