Accrediting Council for Independent Colleges and Schools
The Accrediting Council for Independent Colleges and Schools (ACICS) is a non-profit education corporation that was recognized by the United States Secretary of Education and Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA) as an independent and autonomous national accrediting body, but has had that recognition revoked. ACICS was established in 1912. It accredits 245 institutions of higher education offering undergraduate and graduate diplomas and degrees, including master's degrees, in both traditional formats, and through distance education. ACICS is incorporated in Virginia and operates from offices in Washington, D.C. Concerns about the quality of its accreditation led the U.S. Department of Education to withdraw the accreditor's recognition in September 2016.
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.
The scope of ACICS' recognition by the Department of Education and CHEA was 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."
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. Retention rates are calculated within a single academic year.
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. Five months later, twelve state attorneys general requested that the U.S. Department of Education withdraw recognition from ACICS as a federally-recognized accreditor. 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" and the president of the organization, Al Gray, resigned.
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. 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. 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." The company immediately announced that it would appeal the decision within the 30 days allowed for appeal, to Education Secretary John King Jr. 
- List of recognized accreditation associations of higher learning
- Educational accreditation
- Colleges accredited by the Accrediting Council for Independent Colleges and Schools
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- 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.