June 10, 2016

Senator Warren Releases Report Raising Serious Concerns About College Accreditor and Federal Advisory Committee's Troubled Oversight

Urges Education Department to hold accreditor ACICS accountable for long record of failure

A copy of the staff report is available here (PDF)
A copy of Warren's letter to the Education Department is available here (PDF)

Washington, DC - A report released today by Senator Elizabeth Warren describes lax federal oversight of the Accrediting Council for Independent Colleges and Schools (ACICS), a college accreditor that has a long track record of failing to hold schools accountable for wrongdoing. The report comes in advance of a June meeting of the National Advisory Committee on Institutional Quality and Integrity (NACIQI) that will consider whether to renew ACICS's federal recognition.

ACICS and other accreditors are gatekeepers for federal dollars; schools that are not accredited cannot access taxpayer dollars via student loans, and without this accreditation many schools would be unable to continue operation. NACIQI oversees the accreditors, serving as a "gatekeeper for the gatekeepers."

In a letter sent to the Education Department (ED), Senator Warren urged ED to carefully consider the report's findings of poor performance by ACICS.  "As gatekeepers to federal funding, accrediting agencies play a crucial role in promoting student achievement and institutional quality at institutions of higher education," Senator Warren wrote.  "The findings of (this) report, however, detail an appalling record of failure on the part of ACICS...(that) stretch beyond ACICS's decision to continue accrediting campuses of the fraudulent Corinthian Colleges until the for-profit's ultimate collapse."

"I urge the Department to...take strong, aggressive action to hold ACICS accountable for its dismal record of failure," she continued.

The report released today, titled Rubber Stamps: ACICS and the Troubled Oversight of College Accreditors, examines both ACICS's performance as an accreditor as well as concerns about federal oversight of accreditors. Its findings include:

  • ACICS has a history of accrediting schools that have faced investigations, penalties, and settlements for violations of federal and state law.
  • ACICS oversight was lax, and warning signs were ignored even when accreditors were confronted with clear evidence of wrongdoing.
  • ACICS-accredited schools consistently produce astronomical debt levels and terrible outcomes for students.
  • NACIQI review processes have consistently failed to address documented concerns about accreditors and to hold accreditors accountable.
  • In its supervision over ACICS, NACIQI has an exceptionally egregious record of failed oversight.

A PDF copy of the Warren staff report is available here, and a copy of the senator's letter to ED is available here.