January 23, 2021
Late Friday, the U.S. Department of Education (“Department”) released a report authored by career staff
that recommends terminating the federal recognition of the Accrediting Council of Independent Colleges and
Schools (“ACICS”). Although the recommendation will be considered by a federal advisory committee next
month, the fate of ACICS will ultimately be decided by a senior department official designated by the Biden
Authored by career staff in the Office of Postsecondary Education’s Accreditation Division, the final staff
report recommends the Department terminate ACICS’s recognition as a nationally recognized accrediting
agency due to the alleged failure of the agency to demonstrate in its compliance report that it has the
administrative capacity to carry out its accreditation activities, to include “competent and knowledgeable
individuals…regarding the agency’s standards, policies, and procedures…” The compliance report was
required as a condition of the Trump administration reinstating ACICS’s recognition in 2018.
The career staff’s recommendation will be considered by the National Advisory Committee on Institutional
Quality and Integrity (“NACIQI”) at its February 25, 2021 meeting. The function of NACIQI is advisory only
and does not bind the Department. Recommendations from both career staff and NACIQI will then be
forwarded to a senior department official – typically a political appointee – who will decide whether to
terminate ACICS’s recognition. The senior department official’s decision is the final decision of the
Department, unless the decision is appealed to the Secretary of Education.
If the Department terminates ACICS’s recognition, the Higher Education Act of 1965, as amended, allows
the Department to continue to certify ACICS-accredited institutions for continued participation in the federal
student aid programs for up to 18 months from the date of the Department’s final decision. This 18-month
period allows institutions time to obtain accreditation from another Department recognized accrediting
agency. During this period, the Department typically requires institutions to comply with additional operating
conditions to continue to participate in the federal student aid programs.