January 10, 2023

Warren, Pressley Call on the New England Commission on Higher Education to Carefully Scrutinize Troubled Bay State College’s Accreditation at Upcoming Meeting

Ahead of Thursday’s Meeting, Lawmakers Expresses Concerns that Accrediting Agencies Have Acted as “Rubber Stamps” for For-Profit Colleges 

Bay State College is Under Investigation by Massachusetts Attorney General For Allegedly Defrauding Students and its Finances Were Placed Under Heightened Monitoring by U.S. Department of Education

Text of Letter (PDF)

Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and U.S. Representative Ayanna Pressley (D-Mass.) sent a letter to New England Commission on Higher Education (NECHE) calling on the accreditor to carefully scrutinize Bay State College’s accreditation at this Thursday’s scheduled meeting on the college’s accreditation status. In the wake of ongoing reports of fraud and financial mismanagement by Bay State affecting the quality of its education, an investigation by the Massachusetts Attorney General’s Office into Bay State’s alleged use of unfair and deceptive practices to defraud students, and the U.S. Department of Education placing Bay State on Heightened Cash Monitoring, the lawmakers are calling on NECHE to take any necessary action, including rescinding Bay State’ accreditation, to protect students and taxpayers. 

“As gatekeepers to federal funding, accrediting agencies play a crucial role in upholding institutional quality and student achievement at institutions of higher education,” wrote the lawmakers. “The disturbing reports of fraud and degradation of the learning environment at Bay State College require NECHE to carefully scrutinize Bay State’s accreditation and ensure that students and taxpayers are protected from continued harm.”

Bay State College will appear before NECHE on Thursday, January 12, 2023, at a special meeting to discuss its accreditation status.

In September 2017, the NECHE approved the sale of Bay State College to Ambow Education, a Chinese holding company based in the Cayman Islands. Since the sale, Bay State College suffered years of financial losses and also allegedly failed to pay rent on its facilities and missed payroll for employees. In April 2022, NECHE voted to place Bay State College on probation because it found that the institution “did not demonstrate that its resources are sufficient to sustain the quality of its educational programs and to support institutional improvement now and in the foreseeable future and that it has an effective system of governance and sufficient administrative capacity.” 

The lawmakers note that Bay State College has a troubling history of noncompliance with state and federal law. In 2016 and 2017, the Massachusetts Attorney General’s Office found that the school engaged in illegal telemarketing practices, provided prospective students with inaccurate job placement figures, and failed to give students disclosures as required by state regulations – and ordered Bay State to pay $1.1 million in relief to hundreds of students who were scammed. Following recent allegations that Bay State may have overcharged students thousands of dollars for classes and misled students about the transferability of classes, the Massachusetts Attorney General’s Office is investigating these new complaints. On December 1, 2022, the Department of Education placed Bay State under Heightened Cash Monitoring, which is designed to strengthen accountability for institutions with a history of accreditation issues, weak administrative capabilities, and questionable financial responsibility.

Given ongoing allegations of fraud and Bay State College’s history of abuses, the lawmakers are calling on NECHE to take immediate action, carefully scrutinize Bay State and not act as a “rubber stamp” for accreditation, and if necessary, take action to rescind the institution’s accreditation to protect students and taxpayers. They lawmakers are asking NECHE to answer a set of questions about accreditation for Bay State by January 24, 2023. 

Senator Warren is one of the nation’s leading voices for holding bad actors in higher education accountable for predatory practices that harm and trap students, including for-profit colleges, college accreditors, and student loan servicers. She has helped return tens of millions of dollars to students cheated by for-profit colleges.

  • In October 2022, Senator Warren called on the Department of Education to hold for-profit colleges executives accountable for scamming students out of a quality education and loading them up with student debt.
  • In August 2022, Senator Warren recognized the Department of Education for protecting students and taxpayers by taking action to revoke ACICS status as an accreditor.
  • In March 2022, Senator Warren, along with Senate Democratic Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), Senator Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), and U.S. Representatives Pramila Jaypal (D-Wash.) and Mark Takano (D-Calif.), urged the Department of Education to swiftly discharge the loans of borrowers defrauded by predatory for-profit colleges and universities, including those operated by Corinthian College. 
  • Senator Warren, along with Senators Brown, Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Tina Smith (D-Minn.), and Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) sent a letter to Maximus, the company that is assuming Navient’s federal student loans servicing contract, questioning its troubling history and seeking assurances that borrowers will receive appropriate services and protections during the transition. 
  • Senator Warren also questioned Jack Remondi, CEO of Navient, on the company's long history of abusive and misleading behavior towards borrowers and their profiting off the broken student loan system.
  • Senator Warren called on the Trump Department of Education to hold student loan servicer, Great Lakes Education Loan Services, Inc., accountable for CARES Act blunder that likely lowered credit scores for millions of borrowers.
  • Senator Warren led her colleagues in for defunct for-profit college, ECA, to stop attempts to collect from former students.
  • Senator Warren sent a letter to the Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA), the association that coordinates the higher education accreditation process, calling on them to deny recognition to the for-profit college accreditor, Accrediting Council of Independent Colleges and Schools (ACICS), at an upcoming review for failing to protect students and taxpayers.
  • Senator Warren demanded answers about the sudden collapse of the massive for-profit college chain Education Corporate of America (ECA) from ECA and ACICS.
  • Senator Warren called on Secretary DeVos to rescind ACICS’ reinstatement citing ECA going out of business and the misrepresented peer support for ACICS.
  • Senator Warren led her colleagues in requesting information regarding the decision to reinstate ACICS as a federally recognized accreditor following misrepresented endorsements.
  • Senator Warren pressed Secretary DeVos about the Department of Education’s decision to restore recognition of ACICS, after ACICS status was revoked in 2016.
  • Senator Warren conducted rigorous oversight of the for-profit college industry and helped secure three-quarters of a billion dollars in debt relief for students who were cheated by predatory for-profit colleges, including 4,500 Massachusetts students and more than 28,000 students across the country.
  • Senator Warren joined Senators Durbin, Patty Murray (D-Wash.), Brown, and Blumenthal in urging the Department of Education to take steps and protect students and taxpayers in the event that ACICS loses federal recognition.
  • Senator Warren introduced the Accreditation Reform and Enhanced Accountability Act of 2016 to reduce student debt and protect students and taxpayers by reforming higher education accreditation and strengthening the Department of Education’s ability to hold accreditors accountable.
  • Senator Warren urged the Department of Education to carefully consider findings of poor performance by ACICS, a college accreditor that has a long track record of failing to hold schools accountable for wrongdoing, in their decision to renew ACICS’ federal recognition.
  • Senator Warren questioned the President of ACICS and its role as gatekeeper of federal money and oversight over institutions during a Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions hearing.