Just when it seemed that all hope of restoring ACICS recognition with the U.S. Department of Education had died, a federal judge issued an unexpected decision breathing new life into the embattled accreditor’s ongoing efforts to regain their recognition. Things were looking grim for the accreditor when it was discovered that riders attached to last month’s omnibus spending bill H.R. 1625 (115) which were intended to clear a path forward for the agency, were removed before the bill was passed.

The news of the riders being stripped signaled what many thought was the end of the road for those few remaining ACICS schools that have been struggling to change accreditors by the final June 2018 deadline. The accreditor has been pursuing re-recognition and had hoped to have their application for recognition reviewed and approved by NACIQI this spring, but with the clock ticking away and seemingly fewer and fewer legal options left, all was seemingly lost.

In a surprise ruling announced late on a Friday night, U.S. District Court Judge Reggie B. Walton issued a ruling in favor of ACICS and remanded their case back to the Secretary of Education, Betsy DeVos for further review. According to the court decision, Secretary DeVos can make her own recommendation taking any new evidence that the accreditor has made improvements to its oversight of schools into consideration because the Obama Administration’s decision was found to be illegal because they failed to consider all the relevant evidence in the case when making their decision.

ACICS posted this on their website following the court’s decision.

On Friday, March 23, U.S. District Judge Reggie B. Walton ruled that the U.S. Department of Education violated the Administrative Procedures Act by failing to consider various categories of relevant evidence” in its decision to withdraw ACICS’ recognition as a nationally-recognized accreditor.  The case will be remanded back to the Secretary of Education.
ACICS has long maintained that the substantial procedural flaws in the re-recognition process, culminating in the Secretary’s Decision, amounted to an unprecedented violation of the Administrative Procedure Act.
ACICS argued in its Motion for Summary Judgment, and the Court agreed, that the Secretary failed to consider all available relevant information, including 36,000 pages of evidence submitted by ACICS in response to a specific request from the Office of the Under Secretary and that the Secretary failed to consider the substantial evidence that ACICS provided of its placement verification and data integrity programs.  Michelle Edwards, ACICS President, issued the following statement in response to Friday’s ruling:
“We are gratified by today’s ruling as we believe the Department failed to review evidence submitted by ACICS documenting many meaningful reforms implemented by the organization. We are studying the ruling and working to understand its implications for the organization moving forward. We know many schools have questions and we will move quickly to address those questions and map out a path forward.”

All eyes are on DeVos as we await her decision and recommendation.

This might just be the comeback story of the year.