A.G. Schneiderman, Fellow AGs To Secretary DeVos: Don't Reauthorize Accrediting Agency That Approved Predatory, Failing For-Profit Schools

News from Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman

February 20, 2018

Attorney General’s Press Office / 212-416-8060
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20 AGs Oppose Petition by Accrediting Council For Independent Colleges And Schools to Regain Status as Nationally Recognized Accreditor Following ACICS’ “Extreme and Far-Reaching Oversight Failures”

NEW YORK — Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman today joined a coalition of 20 Attorneys General demanding that the U.S. Department of Education reject the Accrediting Council for Independent Colleges and Schools’ (ACICS) application to regain its status as a nationally recognized accreditor. In a letter sent today to U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos, Attorney General Schneiderman and his fellow Attorneys General note the accreditor’s “extreme and far-reaching oversight failures” and the serious harm it caused students and taxpayers across the country by enabling fraud and abuse by predatory for-profit schools like Corinthian Colleges. Today’s letter follows a number of actions taken by Attorney General Schneiderman to protect students from unscrupulous for-profit colleges, including a multimillion-dollar settlement agreement with Devry University and another with Aequitas Capital Management, Inc. to provide loan forgiveness and debt relief for 350 Rochester-area students victimized by the Corinthian College loan provider.

"For years, thousands of students were duped into pursuing degree programs that essentially had no real world value — saddling many New Yorkers with mountains of debt and very few job prospects. As an accreditor, ACICS had a basic responsibility to protect those students but, instead, allowed them to be taken advantage of by predatory for-profit colleges," said Attorney General Schneiderman. "Secretary DeVos must do her job to protect students by rejecting ACICS’s petition to regain its status as a nationally recognized accreditor. ACICS thoroughly failed students before and it cannot be entrusted with that responsibility again.”

In response to the U.S. Department of Education’s call for written comments, Attorney General Schneiderman and the coalition of Attorneys General are calling for the Department to reject ACICS’s application for initial recognition. In the comments, the Attorneys General note that the Department terminated ACICS’s recognition just over a year ago due to ACICS’s pervasive oversight failures, so any attempt by ACICS to become nationally recognized once again “should be treated with great skepticism.” Under the Department’s regulations, the Attorneys General assert, ACICS cannot meet the threshold eligibility requirements for receiving national recognition.

Accreditors serve a critical role in ensuring that schools provide students with an education that meets minimum standards of quality. They function as gatekeepers, protecting students from abuse by institutions that offer education of little-to-no value. When accreditors fail to fulfill this responsibility, they enable abusive schools to engage in misconduct that can be devastating to students.

As the letter details, ACICS’s oversight failures include its decision to extend accreditation to schools like the Manhattan School of Computer Technology, along with a large number of campuses operated by the now-defunct Corinthian Colleges, such as the Everest Institute Rochester. ACICS continued accrediting Corinthian even after Attorney General Schneiderman and upwards of 20 state and federal agencies initiated investigations into Corinthian’s fraud, and up until the day Corinthian declared bankruptcy.

“ACICS’s previous stint as a nationally recognized accreditor provides a stark illustration of the damage done to both students and taxpayers when accreditors fail to fulfill their oversight responsibilities. During these years, ACICS willingly accredited predatory schools that left students across the country mired in debt and without the quality education they were promised,” the letter states.

The letter was signed by the Attorneys General of New York, California, Connecticut, the District of Columbia, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Iowa, Kentucky, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Jersey, North Carolina, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Virginia, and Washington.