A year after a USA Today Network investigation revealed an accredited university in South Dakota didn’t seem to have students or staff, a federal panel voted to strip the Accrediting Council for Independent Colleges and Schools of its federal recognition on Friday.
That recommendation could mean the end of the road for the troubled accreditor which had previously made headlines for its role in accrediting ITT Tech and Corinthian Colleges, two massive for-profit colleges that shutdown without much warning in the mid-2010s.
Accreditors operate independently of the federal government, but their approval by the Education Department allows them to decide which colleges can access federal money including student loans or Pell Grants. The decision, which was decided by a 11 to 1 vote, came after hours of discussion and reviews of hundreds of pages of documents reviewing the accreditor’s monitoring, or lack thereof, of colleges.
A senior department official will now make the final call about ACICS’ future, and the agency could still appeal the decision. But if the agency does lose its accrediting power, the nearly 60 institutions accredited by ACICS would need to find a new accreditor if they want to continue accessing federal money.
Thursday’s review stemmed partially from USA TODAY’s investigation in February 2020 that found Reagan National University, didn’t appear to have students or faculty members. Important links on the website, like one to register for classes, also…