College Accreditor ACICS to Shut Down

The Accrediting Council for Independent Colleges and Schools will shut down by March 2024, ending a battle spanning three presidential administrations.

Published September 7, 2022

Edited by Alex Pasquariello
College Accreditor ACICS to Shut Down
Higher Ed Policy
Photo by Erin Scott / Bloomberg / Getty Images

  • ACICS recognition was originally pulled during the Obama administration before being restored by the Trump administration in 2018.
  • Late last month, the Department of Education denied its appeal for recognition.
  • ACICS once accredited hundreds of schools, including the now-shuttered Corinthian Colleges and ITT Technical Institute.

The accreditor that once backed shuttered for-profits Corinthian Colleges and ITT Technical Institute will itself soon shut down.

The Accrediting Council for Independent Colleges and Schools (ACICS) announced yesterday that it will not appeal the Department of Education (ED) decision to revoke its recognition as an accreditor, ending a battle spanning three presidential administrations.

ACICS recognition was originally pulled during the Obama administration in 2016 before being restored by the Trump administration in 2018. It was then revoked in 2021 by the Biden administration.

ACICS appealed the Biden administration’s decision, but ED Deputy Secretary of Education Cindy Marten wrote last month that the accreditor “remained out of compliance in 2018, at which time it was given another opportunity to reach full compliance. Its continuing failure to reach full compliance with this criterion alone is a sufficient basis to terminate ACICS' recognition.”

In its announcement that it would not appeal ED’s decision, ACICS argued that their organization has “been in substantial compliance with any objective, consistent, and reasonable interpretation of the recognition criteria.”

ACICS accredited 237 schools that enrolled a total of 361,000 students when its recognition was first pulled in 2016. By last month, ED said that it only accredited 27 schools that in total enrolled some 5,000 students.

“As this data make clear, ACICS was serving its role as an accreditor, providing an important service to institutions of higher education, the students they serve and ultimately, the communities in which they live and work,” Michelle Edwards, ACICS president and CEO, said in a statement. “I am extremely proud of the work we have done, especially in the last five years. Nevertheless, the time has come to initiate the steps necessary to dissolve the corporation.”

ACICS said it will work with the schools it currently accredits to “prepare for the transition.” The organization expects to shutter no later than March 1, 2024, according to the release.

The institutions currently accredited by ACICS will need to find a new accreditor and have up to 18 months of provisional participation in federal student aid programs, per Marten’s decision. Those institutions will also be subject to "additional monitoring, transparency, oversight, and accountability measures" if they want to continue to offer federal student aid.