SENIOR DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL RECOMMENDS ED GIVE ACICS MORE TIME

Two years after the Obama administration’s top education officials Emma Vadehra, the Chief of Staff to, and, 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 Trump administration is attempting to revive them.

Diane Auer Jones, an aide to Education Secretary Betsy DeVos who has been carrying out the duties of the Undersecretary of Education and acting as “Senior Department Official” (SDO), found the Accrediting Council of Independent Colleges and Schools (ACICS) to be compliant with only 19 out of the 21 requirements for federal recognition, but still hasn’t demonstrated full compliance. She recommends ACICS be given another twelve months to come into or demonstrate compliance with federal accreditor recognition standards.

In a statement Michelle Edwards, President and CEO of ACICS commented on the SDO’s recommendation:

“It has been a long and winding road since we filed our 2016 petition for continued recognition. We have long believed that ACICS met accreditation criteria as established by the Department and had the ability to remedy any deficiencies noted by the Department. We understand the agency’s need to be extremely thorough in its evaluation of our compliance. We appreciate the SDO’s very thoughtful and detailed review of the voluminous supporting materials that the agency provided in response to the Secretary’s April 2018 Order.

In the past two years, ACICS has implemented significant reforms designed to address concerns, strengthen the accreditation process and, ultimately, enhance our ability to hold schools accountable for meaningful student outcomes.  These efforts will continue in force as we improve and evolve our processes to ensure we not only remain in compliance with current federal requirements, but also foster an environment of rigorous quality and continuous improvement, both at ACICS and our accredited schools.” 

The final decision whether to follow the SDO’s recommendation seems to rest with Betsy DeVos who must now review the SDO’s decision, and decide whether to grant the agency recognition or not. What remains unclear is the Secretary’s authority to grant another extension of accreditation to an agency that has not yet demonstrated full compliance with the recognition criteria or what the timeframe for her to decide is.

 

ED SECRETARY DELAYS DECISION ON ACICS

In July, U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos granted the Senior Department Official an extension to review and respond to a trove of documents related to ACICS’ petition for continued recognition as U.S. Department of Education accreditor. Secretary DeVos granted the extension after the SDO requested it. The SDO has been given until September 4, 2018 to file the response. You can read the memo from ED on ACICS website here.

BREAKING – ACICS WINS STUNNING VICTORY IN COMEBACK OF THE YEAR

ACICS ACCREDITATION

In a statement on the ACICS website, the agency announced it has regained recognition today as a federally recognized accreditor. Retroactive status has been granted going back to December 2016 while Education Secretary Betsy DeVos reviews the agency’s 2016 petition for recognition.

A press release from ED explains the details and next steps.

Meanwhile, ACICS has this statement posted on their website.

Secretary of Education Orders Restoration of ACICS as a Federally Recognized Accrediting Agency as of December 2016.

Secretary of Education Orders Restoration of ACICS as a Federally Recognized Accrediting Agency as of December 2016 and Outlines Next Steps in the Compliance Review Process

On Tuesday, April 3, 2018, the Secretary of Education issued an Order notifying ACICS that the U.S. Department of Education has restored ACICS’s status as a federally recognized agency as of December 12, 2016.  The Order comes in response to the recent ruling from U.S. District Judge Reggie B. Walton 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 was remanded back to the Secretary of Education.

Michelle Edwards, ACICS President, issued the following statement regarding the Order:

“We were gratified by the court’s ruling requiring the Department to review evidence submitted by ACICS documenting many meaningful reforms implemented by the organization.  And we appreciate the timely response by the Department, reinstating our recognition as of December 2016 and outlining the next steps in the compliance review process. The Department’s decision ensures that students currently attending ACICS schools are not negatively impacted pending the Department’s ongoing review process. In the last two years, ACICS has implemented significant reforms designed to address concerns, strengthen the accreditation process and, ultimately, enhance our ability to hold schools accountable for meaningful student outcomes.  These efforts are comprehensive and ongoing, and we look forward to working with the Department to ensure we are not only in full compliance with current requirements, but also in a position to become, over time, a leader among accreditors.”

ACICS JUST MIGHT BE THE BIGGEST COMEBACK STORY OF THE YEAR

ACICS ACCREDITATION

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.