ACICS SEEKS EXPEDITED PATH TO RECOGNITION

Accreditation Consultants ACICS, ACCET, NEASC

ACICS President and CEO Michelle Edwards confirmed today that the accreditor will be seeking recognition from the Department of Education to again become a National Accreditor. The agency plans to submit a formal petition to ED by October 1 which will allow them to be considered for the Spring 2018 NACIQI meeting, just in time for schools that haven’t met all of the milestones necessary to maintain their financial aid eligibility. Should the agency be re-recognized next spring, schools that have been unable to find another accreditor may get a free pass. On the other hand, if the agency doesn’t obtain recognition the recently introduced Senate Appropriations Bill might provide an additional 18 month extension so that schools can obtain alternative accreditation. 

ACICS has been greeted by the current Presidential Administration with an attitude that is more favorable to the accreditor which accredited primarily schools and colleges with career training programs until its recognition was terminated last year. Last month ACICS made news after United States District Judge Reggie B. Walton ruled that states have the right to intervene and defend the Obama administration’s decision to revoke the commission’s recognition with the Department of Education. ACICS sued for an injunction against ED and the court has denied it. Although Secretary DeVos has defended the Obama era decision in court, ACICS is expected to drop it’s suit as ACICS seeks to expedite it’s re-recognition. Indeed things are looking up for the agency and the remaining schools it accredits.

In an additional statement the accreditor explained that ACICS has adopted new accreditation criteria to improve the effectiveness of its accreditation process.

 

 

 

COURT CONFIRMS STATES RIGHT TO DEFEND IN ACICS V DEVOS

Last week United States District Judge Reggie B. Walton ruled that states have the right to intervene and defend the Obama administration’s decision to revoke the Accrediting Commission Independent Colleges and Schools (ACICS) recognition with the Department of Education. ACICS sued for an injunction against ED the court has denied it. ACICS was rumored to have been negotiating a deal with ED that would allow the accreditor to seek earlier re-recognition in exchange for dropping the suit. Now that the courts have confirmed state attorney’s general right to defend ED’s decision, it seems any opportunity for Secretary Devos to settle with the agency may have been stymied. You can read the court decision here.

 

ABHES RECEIVES APPROVAL FOR EXPANSION OF SCOPE

Hard work has paid off for the Accrediting Bureau of Health Education Schools (ABHES) which received official approval from the U.S. Department of Education to begin accrediting programs at the Masters Degree level.

The Departments decision comes after earlier this year, NACIQI refused to accept the Department’s recommendation that ABHES had met all of the pertinent recognition criteria. However, ABHES and the Department concurred that the expansion should be granted. The final decision was announced on May 25, 2017 by Holly L. Lam, the Senior Department Official who approved ABHES to move forward with its expansion of scope. This expanded scope is included in the 5-year period of ABHES recognition granted on September 22, 2016.

Florence Tate, Executive Director of ABHES had this to share.

ABHES is very pleased with the letter that it received from Assistant Secretary of the Office of Management, Holly L. Ham.  The office of Management suggested that ABHES take into consideration some of the questions and concerns expressed by the NACIQI members, and this is in process.  We appreciated the recommendations offered and we look forward to working with all members as they seek the new credential.

 

FINAL MILESTONE DEADLINE FOR ACICS SCHOOLS

The deadline for the last of the progress milestones for ACICS schools is less than two weeks away. It’s been nearly six months since the former Secretary of Education withdrew federal recognition from the Accrediting Council for Independent Colleges and Schools. Since then, ACICS accredited schools have been flocking to other accreditors and have had to meet certain milestones and conditions prescribed by the U.S. Department of Education along the way to continue their institution’s provisional program participation with the Department. Schools that miss the progress milestones have been required to comply with additional conditions designed to protect students and taxpayers against the risk that institutions will lose federal financial aid eligibility and close, and the deadline for the last of these milestones is just a few days away.

By Monday June 12, 2017 all institutions accredited by ACICS must have an “In-Process Application” with another Accrediting Agency. For any institution that does not have an In-Process Application with another accrediting agency within 180 calendar days of the Secretary’s final decision withdrawing recognition of the institution’s accrediting agency the institution will not be eligible to receive any funds through Title IV, HEA programs for any students that enroll on or after June 12, 2017. Affected institutions must also comply with some additional conditions, including:

  • Additional disclosures to its students;
  • Submission of monthly student lists and a record retention plan to the Department; and
  • A required Letter of Credit in an amount determined by the Department.

Schools that have an In-Process Application, but have not yet completed a site visit from a new accrediting agency have a little more time to do so. All schools transitioning to a new accreditor must have a completed site visit by Tuesday October 12, 2017.Â

As a reminder, ACICS schools are required to engage their independent auditor for an Expanded Compliance Audit. As prescribed by the Department, all institutions must engage their third-party auditors to evaluate certain key data and compliance indicators that would typically have been monitored by the accrediting agency, including fiscal information and measures of student achievement such as placement and retention rates. As we noted in our summary of audits of proprietary schools under the new Audit Guide, auditors are required to conduct a compliance audit which is more rigorous than an examination level engagement. As a result, auditors will be tying school data back to source documentation to ensure it is accurate.

COMTA ENTERS MANAGEMENT AGREEMENT WITH ACCSC

COMPTA ACCSC

The Commission on Massage Therapy Accreditation (COMTA) and the Accrediting Commission of Career Colleges and Schools (ACCSC) have announced that the two organizations have entered into a management agreement for the purpose of strengthening COMTA organizational resources and exploring opportunities to develop a joint institutional and programmatic accreditation process.

While both accrediting agencies remain as separate, autonomous agencies with each maintaining separate recognition with the U.S. Department of Education; COMTA will contract many of its management activities through ACCSC, such as accounting, administrative staff, travel, and human resources. According to the joint press release, the management agreement will allow both organizations to work closely together to develop a singular joint accreditation process that will yield both institutional and programmatic accreditation status for schools with massage therapy and esthetics programs; and allows COMTA to streamline its operational processes with ACCSC strong infrastructure, thereby allowing the COMTA Commission to better serve its member schools and advocate as the massage therapy and esthetics professions’ sole specialized accrediting agency.

You can read the COMTA/ACCSC press release here: http://bit.ly/2pvLPVD

Seeking Accreditation for your school? Click here for more info.

 

ACICS SCHOOLS: YOUR PPA EXPIRES THIS MONTH UNLESS YOU DO THIS

If your school received a Temporary Provisional Program Participation Agreement (TPPPA) from ED following Secretary King’s decision about ACICS,  your signed PPA is due back to ED within 10 days.

Normally a signed and executed copy of the PPA is due back to ED within thirty days of the date located on the PPA Transmittal Letter however, ED is requiring institutions to return theirs (along with signed addenda) within ten calendar days in this case.

If an Institution fails to submit the signed documents within the allotted time frame, its participation in the Title IV, HEA programs will expire at the end of the month during which the ten calendar day period expires.

Requirements for Institutions Accredited by ACICS

ACICS APPEAL DENIED

For colleges and schools affected by today’s decision by Secretary King to deny ACICS’ appeal for continued recognition, the U.S. Department of Education has provided a “summary” of the Requirements that institutions accredited by ACICS must comply with, beginning as soon as within the next 30 days.

On December 12, 2016, the Secretary withdrew recognition from the Accrediting Council for Independent Colleges and Schools (ACICS).  A statement by the agency confirms that ACICS will immediately file litigation seeking injunctive and other relief through the courts.

Although ACICS is no longer a federally recognized accrediting agency, the Department will continue the participation of schools accredited by ACICS in the federal student aid programs through provisional certification. Provisional certification may last up to 18 months from the date of the Secretary’s decision, a period set by statute to allow institutions to seek institutional accreditation from another federally recognized accrediting agency. During the period of provisional participation, the Secretary will deem institutions to hold recognized accreditation, which will allow institutions to avoid consequences in which are triggered in certain states when an institution is no longer accredited by a federally recognized accrediting agency.

During the period of provisional certification resulting from the loss of recognized accreditation, the Department will require the affected institutions to comply with additional conditions. These conditions are designed to protect students and safeguard taxpayer dollars, and they set milestones for the institutions to find another recognized accreditor.  Schools that miss the progress milestones will be required to comply with additional conditions designed to protect students and taxpayers against the risk that institutions will lose federal financial aid eligibility and close, as summarized below.

Some institutions currently participate on a month to month (or temporary month to month) basis, and those schools will continue on the same basis during the term of provisional participation.

Note: This is only a summary of selected additional conditions contained in the Provisional Program Participation Agreement Addendum (“Addendum”).The full conditions for participation during the provisional term are set forth in their entirety in the Provisional Program Participation Agreement (“PPPA”) and the Addendum.


The following provisions apply immediately to all ACICS-accredited institutions:

  1. Closing Institutions: If an institution intends to close, its term of provisional participation will be limited to an orderly close-out, and it must immediately cease enrolling students.  If an institution intends to close, it should immediately notify the Department.
  2. Major Changes: Institutions will be restricted from making major changes (e.g., additional locations, increases in level of academic offerings, new programs) without Department approval, and the approval will be granted only in limited circumstances.
  3. Teach Out Plans:  All institutions must submit a teach-out plan to the Department within 30 calendar days after the accrediting agency’s loss of recognition by the Department.
  4. Licensing/Certification Confirmation and Notifications: If an institution’s students (either past, current, or future) become ineligible to sit for any licensing or certification exam as a result of the loss of  the institution’s accrediting agency, the institution must make certain notifications and disclosures, allow students to take a leave of absence, and is not eligible to receive Title IV funds for any newly enrolled students in programs that no longer fulfill licensure or certification requirements.
  5. State Authorization Confirmation and Notifications: I fan institution loses its authorization/license from its governing State entity to operate and issue postsecondary certificates and/or degrees, the institution will not be eligible to receive Title IV funds unless the State grants the institution authorization to continue operating.  The institution must make certain notifications and disclosures.
  6. Student Actions and Investigation Reports: All institutions must submit a report regarding lawsuits, arbitrations, and investigations to the Department within 30 calendar days following the Secretary’s final decision withdrawing the recognition of the Institution’s accrediting agency, and update those reports every 90 days thereafter. In addition, institutions must inform students about where to file complaints they may have previously submitted to an institution’s accreditor.
  7. Compliance Audit Expanded Reporting: All institutions must engage their third-party auditors to evaluate certain key data and compliance indicators that would typically have been monitored by the accrediting agency, including fiscal information and measures of student achievement.

Additional Requirements for ACICS-accredited institutions That Do Not Meet Certain Milestones on the Path Toward Recognized Accreditation:

  • If No In-Process Application within 90 Calendar Days (by Monday, March 13, 2017): For any institution that does not have an In-Process Application with another accrediting agency(i.e., another agency has not notified the institution that its application has been accepted for processing)within 90 calendar days of the Secretary’s final decision withdrawing recognition of the institution’s accrediting agency, in addition to all of the above-described conditions, the institution must:
    • Submit a formal Teach Out Agreement to the Department; and
    • Disclose the fact that it does not have an In-Process Application with another agency to its students, along with other required information.
  • If No In-Process Application within 180 Calendar Days(by Monday, June 12, 2017),or No Completed Accrediting Agency Site Visit Within 300 Calendar Days (by Tuesday, October 10, 2017):  For any institution that does not have an In-Process Application with another accrediting agency within 180 calendar days of the Secretary’s final decision withdrawing recognition of the institution’s accrediting agency, or where an accrediting agency site visit has not been completed within 300 days, the institution will not be eligible to receive any funds through Title IV, HEA programs for any students that enroll on a date after the 180 day or 300 day milestone, whichever applies.  The institution must also comply with some additional conditions, including:
    • Additional disclosures to its students;
    • Submission of monthly student lists and a record retention plan to the Department; and
    • A required Letter of Credit in an amount determined by the Department.

Source – www.ed.gov


Institutions with questions pertaining to this blog post or other matters of compliance with Accreditation, Federal Student Aid standards are welcome to contact our offices for additional assistance.

Peter Terebesi is the President and founder of Higher Ed Executives. You can find Peter on Twitter (@FSAPete), and reach him through the Higher Ed Executives website. You may also email info@ed-executives.com.

As stated in our disclaimers, blog posts by Higher Ed Executives, shared on Twitter, LinkedIn, or elsewhere, should not be considered legal advice. Please consult a qualified advisor.

ACICS APPEALS LOSS OF RECOGNITION

Today, in a brief update on their website, the Accrediting Council for Independent Colleges and Schools (ACICS) confirmed that they have filed their appeal to Education Secretary John B. King Jr. at the U.S. Department of Education. The agency, which accredits hundred of institutions nationwide, was de-recognized in September after Senior Department of Education Officials moved to shut them down.

While Secretary King reviews their appeal, ACICS remains accredited and simply stated that it will “continue operations with the full expectation of carrying out its responsibilities to the institutions it currently accredits”, noting that the time frame for the Secretary’s decision is unspecified.

Many are speculating that the decision will come after this year’s Presidential Election.

Over the last few months, ACICS has worked extremely hard to prevent loss of recognition and has made a number of changes in its accreditation criteria, bylaws and its senior leadership. The face of ACICS appears to have changed, and consequentially, they are seeking additional time, an additional 12 months, to provide evidence that these changes better protect students and taxpayers. Through a combination of rigorous standards that lead to meaningful outcomes at the schools it accredits, and holding institutions accountable, ACICS hopes to renew and recover its historical role as a highly regarded accrediting agency.

Accreditation is one of the requirements a school must maintain in order in order to remain eligible for federal student aid. If the Secretary ultimately decides to stop recognizing ACICS, schools that it has accredited will have 18 months to obtain accreditation from a different recognized accreditor. If the council’s appeal is unsuccessful, they “will be actively pursuing injunctive and other relief through the courts,”


Peter Terebesi is the President and founder of Higher Ed Executives. You can find Peter on Twitter (@FSAPete), and reach him through the Higher Ed Executives website. You may also email info@ed-executives.com.

As stated in our disclaimers, blog posts by Higher Ed Executives, shared on Twitter, LinkedIn, or elsewhere, should not be considered legal advice. Please consult a qualified advisor.


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SEEKING ALTERNATIVES TO ACICS ACCREDITATION

ACICS UPDATE

WHAT COLLEGES AND SCHOOLS NEED TO KNOW – THE LATEST ON ACICS

In September the U.S. Department of Education announced its decision to end federal recognition of the Accrediting Council for Independent Colleges and Schools (ACICS), the country’s largest national accreditor. ACICS almost immediately notified the Department of its intent to appeal and is expected to file its full appeal directly to Education Secretary John B. King Jr., within the 30 day time frame allowed under the Federal Regulations.

Once the appeal has been filed, the Department’s decision will be temporarily stayed until a decision on the appeal is made. Should the Secretary uphold the Department’s decision, ACICS may then contest the decision in Federal court.

Should Secretary King deny their appeal, schools accredited by ACICS will have their Program Participation Agreement with the U.S. Department of Education immediately placed on provisional status. The expiration date of their PPA will be set (or revised for institutions that are already provisionally certified) based on the end of the 18-month period. Schools will then have 18 months to secure new accreditation to maintain its eligibility for participation in Title IV HEA programs. Contrary to what many believe, the 18 month clock keeps ticking even if ACICS contests the Secretary’s decision in court, unless the time frame is otherwise stayed by the courts.

During this time, the Department may place additional conditions on an institution’s participation such as Heightened Cash Monitoring, and/or requiring a Letter of Credit. Provisionally certified institutions are subject to growth restrictions, so new programs, and new locations will require ED approval first. Continue reading SEEKING ALTERNATIVES TO ACICS ACCREDITATION

ACICS Recognition Terminated

Today, Emma Vadehra, the Chief of Staff to Education Secretary John B. King Jr. at the U.S. Department of Education decided to terminate the Department’s recognition of ACICS, the Accrediting Council For Independent Colleges and Schools.

The decision was the third step in the department’s move to systematically dismantle the organization after finding it rife with poorly enforced standards and lax oversight by its executive committee. Critics say the agency, the largest of the national accreditors, didn’t do enough to ensure the quality of the institutions it accredits. However; supporters including industry group CECU, Career Education Colleges and Universities blames political self-interest;
saying the department’s attack on ACICS undermines the interests of non traditional students.

ACICS is expected to appeal the decision directly to the Secretary of Education within the next 30 days. After that, if the Secretary ultimately decides to stop recognizing ACICS, schools that it has accredited will have 18 months to obtain accreditation from a different recognized accreditor. Accreditation is one of the requirements a school must maintain in order in order to remain eligible for federal student aid.

Secretary King has been quoted as saying if an appeal comes, it would be resolved quickly.

Schools that are seeking alternative accreditation must provide their plans to the U.S. Department of Education as well as to their State Authorizing Agency and to current and prospective students.

Students and families concerned about the changes at ACICS and how it may affect them can get great info from the U.S. Department of Education Blog.