And I do mean busine$$. Yes, this is the same national accrediting organizing that was “derecognized” by the US Department of Education during the last few months of the Obama administration, a decision that stood until a couple of weeks ago. Speaking of which, I was writing an email to a colleague about a previously Accrediting Council for Independent Colleges and Schools (ACICS)-accredited institution in California that was shut down. In that email I mentioned that ACICS was going the way of the dinosaur. Before hitting send, I decided to take a take a peek at its website. Lo and behold, I saw this Message to Membership! in bold: Secretary of Education Orders Restoration of ACICS as a Federally Recognized Accrediting Agency as of December 2016 and Outlines Next Steps in the Compliance Review Process.
Someone at ACICS, or probably one of its more influential supporters, put a bee in someone else’s bonnet, presumably someone in a position of power and, voilà, new life was breathed into ACICS. (This NYT article from 1 April 2018 delves into some of this: It Oversaw For-Profit Colleges That Imploded. Now It Seeks a Comeback.) This has many implications, including the fact that all of the ACICS-accredited institutions that had to find new institutional accreditation by this June are suddenly off the hook. It’s a happy day in National Accreditation Land.
What a relief for ACICS and its accredited schools. What terrible news for those of us who value quality US higher education and are concerned about substandard institutions cashing in on the cachet of US education and, some cases, tarnishing its generally sterling reputation. The half-full part of me was hoping that the Trump administration would overlook this tiny corner of US higher education and that there would be some justice, at least in this case. But it was not meant to be, not with the likes of Trump and Betsy “Amway” DeVos calling the shots. There’s simply too much money at stake. And money, after all, is what drives key decisions in an oligarchy.
Keep in mind that this is the same ACICS that fell asleep at the wheel and allowed not-so-stellar universities like Northwestern Polytechnic University (NPU) to exist. It was because of the crack investigative reporting of Buzzfeed that the public, including a certain US senator from Connecticut, learned of this visa mill. That’s when the shit really hit the fan.
Then there was the great Silicon Valley University (SVU), another visa mill, also in northern California, that has been in the news, often in tandem with NPU. Both were ACICS-accredited and both were family businesses masquerading as nonprofits. (SVU had its accreditation revoked last December and NPU is accredited through 31.12.18, for what that’s worth.) In both cases, no one was minding the shop.
How is ACICS rewarded for this egregious lack of oversight? Allowed to continue with business as usual, which reminds me of this 2017 Bill Maher editorial. I’m waiting for the next shoe to drop.
In a word, disgraceful.