DeVos reinstated for-profit college accreditor despite agency concerns: report

DeVos reinstated for-profit college accreditor despite agency concerns: report
© Greg Nash

Education Secretary Betsy DeVosElizabeth (Betsy) Dee DeVosDebt relief is now harder for students of for-profit colleges House fails to override Trump veto of bill blocking DeVos student loan rule DeVos issues new rule ordering more coronavirus relief to private schools MORE moved to reinstate a for-profit college accreditor despite her own staff's concerns that the organization did not meet federal education standards.

A report obtained under a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request by Politico shows that senior officials at the Department of Education had serious concerns about the Accrediting Council for Independent Colleges and Schools (ACICS), which was terminated under the Obama administration in 2016.

The March 2018 report by agency personnel concluded that ACICS should not be reinstated, Politico reported. But DeVos moved to allow the organization to resume operations anyway in April, after a judge ruled the Obama administration illegally ignored relevant evidence to the case.


Career officials at the agency argued that ACICS failed to meet 57 of the 93 criteria required by the Education Department, and the firm also faces questions over why it certified schools such as ITT Tech and Corinthian Colleges amid their collapse under fraud investigations, according to Politico.

An Education Department spokeswoman told the news outlet that, despite the judge's refusal to order the agency to reinstate the organization, the department was still unable to enforce a ruling found to be illegal.

“The Secretary did not make the determination to reinstate ACICS,” spokeswoman Liz Hill said. “A judge ruled that the previous administration failed to consider 36,000 pages of relevant evidence before making its decision to withdraw ACICS's recognition as an accreditor and remanded the case back to the Secretary.”

According to Politico, the judge specifically rejected the request from ACICS to reinstate the firm, and merely sent it back to DeVos for more consideration.

Alex Elson, senior counsel at the National Student Legal Defense Network, blasted the department's decision in a statement to Politico.

"It's no wonder that ACICS and Secretary DeVos didn't want this report to come out,” Elson said. “Clearly, she was well aware that ACICS was getting worse, not better, and has been working to help them anyway."

In a statement to Politico, the Office of Postsecondary Education, led by a DeVos appointee, fired back at the release of the report, calling the document created by senior agency staff “an incomplete, pre-decisional document that may include errors of fact or omissions on the part of staff analysts.”