The US Department of Education revoked its endorsement of the Accrediting Council for Independent Colleges and Schools (ACICS) back in September of 2016.
A letter to ACICS from the DOE stated: “I am terminating the department's recognition of ACICS as a national recognized accrediting agency... ACICS's track record does not inspire confidence that it can address all of the problems effectively.”
The department had been scrutinizing ACICS since 2015 because it was endorsing some shaky institutions.
Computer Systems Institute
On April 15, 2016, the DOE cut off federal aid to Skokie, Illinois-based Computer Systems Institute (CSI). They were found guilty of numerous cases of fraud including falsifying information about post-graduation job placement. CSI was an ACICS school.
Department investigators followed up with a sample of former CSI students. They visited Home Health Consultants, which supposedly employed 42 CSI grads. The business address was an ordinary home, where a man named “Quinn” stayed behind a screen door and tried to describe his “medical services.”
The students apparently did odd jobs like passing out flyers on the street for “bogus” services. Most were barely paid.
Are You an ACICS Student?
Crafty outfits like CSI are why the government no longer trusts ACICS. Students for another ACICS school, Heald College, held a “debt strike” in 2015. Citing the fact that their education was worthless, they stopped paying their student loans and made a stand.
But good schools have bad accreditors. You probably rarely think about accreditation. It shouldn't be an issue but now it is.
Search the ACICS directory. If your school is on it, it's time to take some action.
First, know that ACICS is appealing the decision. The final act won't be made by the DOE for eighteen months at least. If the ax does fall, your school will have another eighteen months to find new accreditation.
You won't show up to find locked doors one day.
Yes, this is a good time to audit your education. Talk to your school and ask them what they are doing about it. They should be putting together a plan. If they are a good organization with bad accreditation, they have nothing to fear. They'll find a new accreditor and keep teaching.
If they are part of the ACICS problem, they are probably scared. They are going down the same drain as CSI. They probably don't want to talk to you about it.
Do you have confidence in your school? Are you a year or two away from graduating? If so, stay on target. If you are able to graduate while the school is still accredited your certificate or degree will always be valid.
Still Looking for a School?
If you are considering an ACICS school, this is a reason to steer clear. This is going to be a mess for years. Don't willingly fall into it.
The ACICS scandal highlights the fact that some for-profit schools are predatory organizations. Preying on potential students who have struggled to achieve a good job and income, they make big promises and create big debt with no return.
The Importance of Accreditation
It is worth it to understand the difference in accrediting bodies. Schools that are regionally accredited typically have to meet more rigorous standards. If you attend a regionally accredited school it will be easier for you to transfer credits, apply to grad school, or impress a potential employer.
Schools that are nationally accredited do not have to meet as rigorous standards as regionally accredited schools. Many of these schools are online schools or are more vocational in nature.
There are plenty of good players in this industry that are doing right by their students. But the fact remains that regionally accredited schools will often not accept credit from a nationally accredited school. It also may be difficult for the student to apply to a graduate program.
You can read more about the difference between national and regional accreditation here.
Know that the most important aspect of your education is YOU! Students who possess drive and motivation can succeed with any education, while students without it will fail even at Ivy League universities.
That being said, it pays to do some extra research before committing to a school to make sure they are delivering on promises.
Have you been affected by the closure of ACICS? Follow this guide to find what's next.