Accrediting Council for Independent Colleges and Schools

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Accrediting Council for Independent Colleges and Schools
TypeNational accrediting body
U.S. Department of Education and CHEA
Michelle Edwards Edit this at Wikidata

The Accrediting Council for Independent Colleges and Schools (ACICS) is a non-profit education corporation that is recognized by the United States Department of Education as an independent and autonomous national accrediting body. ACICS was established in 1912. It accredited 245 institutions of higher education offering undergraduate and graduate diplomas and degrees in both traditional formats and through distance education.[1] ACICS is incorporated in Virginia and operates from offices in Washington, D.C.[2] Concerns about the quality of its accreditation led the U.S. Department of Education to withdraw the accreditor's recognition in 2016[3] but the decision was remanded to Secretary of Education DeVos in March 2018 for further review.[4][5] While that review is under way, the organization's accreditation remains valid.[6]


ACICS was established upon the request of Benjamin Franklin Williams, President of Capital City Commercial College of Des Moines, Iowa. Upon the meeting of 22 school administrators, who met in Chicago, Illinois, on December 12, 1912, the original alliance formed the basis of National Association of Accredited Commercial Schools (NAACS), which was later renamed ACICS.[7]


The scope of ACICS' recognition by the Department of Education and CHEA is defined as accreditation of private post-secondary educational institutions, both for-profit and non-profit, offering nondegree programs or associate degrees, bachelor's degrees and master's degrees in programs "designed to train and educate persons for professional, technical, or occupational careers."[8][9]

As an accreditor for many for-profit colleges, ACICS provided information during U.S. Congressional investigations of for-profit education in 2010. ACICS reported that the institutions it accredits are required to demonstrate a student retention rate of at least 75 percent.[10] Retention rates are calculated within a single academic year.[11]

In 2015, ACICS fell under significant scrutiny after the collapse of Corinthian Colleges, a for-profit institution that was accredited by ACICS until its sudden demise. A subcommittee of the United States Senate requested information from ACICS in November 2015.[12] Five months later, twelve state attorneys general requested that the U.S. Department of Education withdraw recognition from ACICS as a federally-recognized accreditor.[13][14] The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau petitioned a federal court to order ACICS to make available information about "its decision to approve several controversial for-profit college chains"[15] and the president of the organization, Al Gray, resigned.[14][16]

Scrutiny continued in 2016 and intensified after another large chain of for-profit institutions accredited by ACICS, ITT Technical Institute, came under fire by state and federal agencies; the chain closed in 2016 and filed for bankruptcy. U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren, a prominent critic of ACICS, released a report critical of the accreditor in June. Several days later, the U.S. Department of Education formally recommended that the accreditor's recognition be withdrawn.[17][18] In September 2016, the chief of staff to the U.S. education secretary wrote in a letter to ACICS: "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."[3] The company immediately announced that it would appeal the decision within the 30 days allowed for appeal, to Education Secretary John King Jr.[3] ACICS unsuccessfully appealed the decision[19][4] and subsequently sued the Department of Education.[20] Although Secretary of Education King finalized the process of revoking the U.S. Department of Education's recognition of ACICS as an accreditor in December 2016,[4] ACICS's lawsuit resulted in a judge ordering Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos to review the decision in March 2018 as King did not take into account all of the evidence.[5] ACICS remains a recognized accreditor while this review takes place.[6]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "U.S. Department of Education, Staff Report to the Senior Department Official on Recognition Compliance Issues". U.S. Department of Education. Retrieved 5 July 2016.
  2. ^ "ACICS - About Us".
  3. ^ a b c "Education Department Strips Authority of Largest For-Profit Accreditor". U.S. News & World Report. September 22, 2016.
  4. ^ a b c "Education Department Establishes Enhanced Federal Aid Participation Requirements for ACICS-accredited Colleges" (Press release). United States Department of Education. December 12, 2016. Archived from the original on December 26, 2016. Retrieved December 28, 2016.
  5. ^ a b Adam Harris (March 25, 2018). "Federal Judge Hands a Victory to Embattled Accreditor". Chronicle of Higher Education. Retrieved March 26, 2018.
  6. ^ a b "ACICS | Secretary of Education Orders Restoration of ACICS as a Federally Recognized Accrediting Agency as of December 2016". April 3, 2018. Retrieved April 4, 2018.
  7. ^ "ACICS - Events".
  8. ^ "Accreditation in the United States". U.S. Department of Education.
  9. ^ "CHEA: Directory of National Career-Related Accrediting Organizations". Council for Higher Education Accreditation. Archived from the original on 2016-12-24. Retrieved December 28, 2016.
  10. ^ Gerald Helguero (October 3, 2010). "Clampdown on for-profit schools faces opposition". International Business Times. Archived from the original on October 5, 2010.
  11. ^ "How Jewish College Uses Federal Funds To Grow". Forward. October 4, 2012.
  12. ^ Michael Stratford (November 6, 2015). "Senate Inquiry Into Accreditation". Inside Higher Ed. Retrieved April 18, 2016.
  13. ^ And Thomason (April 8, 2016). "13 State Attorneys General Say Accreditor's Recognition Should Be Revoked". The Chronicle of Higher Education. Retrieved April 18, 2016.
  14. ^ a b "Attorneys General Come Down on Accreditor of For-profit Colleges". ProPublica. April 11, 2016.
  15. ^ Paul Fain (October 15, 2015). "Federal Watchdog Eyes Accreditor". Inside Higher Ed. Retrieved April 18, 2016.
  16. ^ Michael Stratford (April 18, 2016). "Sudden Departure at For-Profit Accreditor". Inside Higher Ed. Retrieved April 18, 2016.
  17. ^ Paul Fain (June 15, 2016). "U.S. Recommends Shutting For-Profit Accreditor". Inside Higher Ed. Retrieved June 15, 2016.
  18. ^ U.S. Department of Education (June 2016). "U.S. Department of Education Staff Report to the Senior Department Official on Recognition Compliance Issues". Retrieved June 15, 2016.
  19. ^ "ACICS Status Update". Retrieved October 25, 2016.
  20. ^ "Department of Education Appeal Decision". Retrieved 14 December 2016.

External links[edit]