Talk:Accrediting Council for Independent Colleges and Schools

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ACICS is a total joke[edit]

I think there should be a controversy section. ACICS is a total joke, the board member are executes for the for-profit schools. That warrants a section itself. How can it be taken seriously if they are all serve for their own interests, which begs the question does ACICS actually mean anything in response to academic standards. (talk) 18:37, 1 February 2010 (UTC)

National accreditation[edit]

From what I understand national accreditation means something different and in way less valuable to students than regional accreditation. I suppose this is a vaguary of the American system. A clear explanation would help. Rich Farmbrough, 16:09, 22 December 2012 (UTC).


It looks as though ACICS recognition by CHEA was grandfathered in 1993. it would be useful to document this if so. I am not sure if this means that ACICS has not had to undergo any form of measurement or inspection from CHEA since then, or indeed by its predecessor bodies. Would be useful to document this too. Rich Farmbrough, 17:05, 22 December 2012 (UTC).

Easy, there, everyone... let's not lose our perspective[edit]

I was asked by someone here to visit this "talk" page and chime-in... I suppose because higher education accreditation, generally, is an area of my consultative practice; and I've written a lot about it; and I've written about ACICS in various places. So, then, I'd like to share some thoughts on what I'm seeing both here and in the article, if everyone's okay with that.

Re: ACICS is a total joke[edit]

This is about as reckless as anything I've ever read around here... and that's really saying something. How convenient that it was made anoymously; the most egregious shot-from-the-hip comments usually are. The board members of every single accreditor -- including the "regional" ones -- are up to their chins in whatever area of higher education is the accreditor's particular specialty. There's no shame in that, alone. Since ACICS tends to accredit for-profit (though typically career-oriented, as opposed to purely academic) schools, then it stands to reason that persons having something to do with said kinds of schools would be on ACICS's board. The notion that a person cannot be on a board without being able to divorce himself/herself from self-interest borders on conspiracy theorist; and is prima facie ignorant. What's far more likely is that our anonymous critic, here, has a self-interest of his/her own which is threatened by ACICS. The fact that the anonymous critic cites "academic" standards, knowing that ACICS concerns itself with professional ones, speaks volumes as to his/her likely regional-accreditor-related perspective, as I cover in the next section.

Regional vs National accreditation[edit]

People pit "regional" accreditors against "national" accreditors in the US, but there are actually more kinds/categories than that. In the US, the US Department of Education (USDE), and the USDE-sanctioned Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA), approves several broad categories of accreditors:

Kinds or categories of USDE-approved accreditors:

  • Regional Accrediting Agencies
  • Nationally Recognized Accrediting Agencies
  • Hybrid Accrediting Agencies
  • Programmatic Accrediting Agencies

Source: The USDE "Agency List" page

Kinds or categories of CHEA-approved accreditors:

  • Regional Accrediting Organizations
  • National Faith-Related Accrediting Organizations
  • National Career-Related Accrediting Organizations
  • Programmatic Accrediting Organizations

Source: The "Directory of CHEA-Recognized Organizations" page

All kinds/categories of USDE- and/or CHEA-approved accreditors are valid and credible and require serious academic and/or professional educational rigor and financial accountability of their accredited schools; and each accreditor, be it "regional" or "national" or "programmatic" or "hybrid", pursuant to USDE and/or CHEA standards, subjects its accredited schools to extraordinary scrutiny such that once a given school has the imprimatur of its accreditor, it is prima facie as worthy as any other school, regardless of which category of USDE and/or CHEA accreditation it falls.

To better grasp that point, it's important to realize that accreditation is a minimum, not an optimal, standard; a standard below which a given school (and its accreditor) may not fall and still have USDE's and/or CHEA's aforementioned imprimatur. The salient proof of this is that both Harvard and Yale have the exact same "regional" accreditation as any of the thousands of local community colleges in any city or town in America, yet no one would dare suggest that any of America's local community colleges are on-par with either Harvard or Yale.

Most accreditors are approved by both USDE and CHEA; though no small number are approved by one, but not both. No educational accreditor which isn't approved by at least one may legitimately be considered an accreditor, no matter what they claim or how loudly they protest to the notion. USDE and/or CHEA approval is necessary in order for any entity in the US to be considered an educational accreditor.

With "government" defined, for purposes of this paragraph, as either or both of USDE and/or CHEA: government does not accredit in the US; instead, government approves independent and typically-educational-kind-or-category-interested agencies -- usually of the not-for-profit type -- to do the actual accrediting, under the oversight and watchful eye of government, and pursuant to its rigorous standards. The accreditors, in turn, establish their own rigorous standards, approved by government, and then apply said standards to the schools they accredit. USDE and/or CHEA, then, are not accreditors. Rather, they are the US governmental agencies which approve and oversee accreditors.

In the US, no school, no matter how accredited, may "validate" another school, as is seen in such as the UK. Only a USDE- and/or CHEA-approved accreditor may accredit.

The so-called "gold standard" of accreditation has long been that provided by the six big "regional" accreditors that are approved by both USDE and CHEA. Every public (and most private) K-12 school(s) in the US, plus pretty much every state college and university (and most private colleges/universities, too), many seminaries, many technical colleges, and a number of other higher education institutions are "regionally" accredited. There is no question that "regional" accreditation is the toughest and most expensive for a school to both obtain and maintain. It's the most common kind of accrediation... so common, in fact, that whenever many people on the street (though usually those who aren't in academia) think of "accreditation," they think of the phrase "regional accreditation" as being interchangeable with "accreditation." In other words, they don't realize that there's any kind other than "regional," and so they say "regionally accredited" when what they really mean is just "accredited."

"National" accreditation, though, should not be given short shrift. It is not, contrary to popular believe, sub-standard, or "second fiddle" to "regional" accreditation. Several of the national accreditors (DETC, for example, just to name one) are easily on par with any of the regional accreditors in terms of requirements and rigor (though most are less expensive to pursue). Sadly, though, the regional accreditors -- acting in the kind of concert which, if they were corporations on the NYSE or NASDAQ, would be prosecuted by the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) as such things as price fixing, creating a monopoly, fraud, and all manner of other things -- have done a pretty good job of convincing themselves, one another, and anyone who asks them that regional accreditation is the only accreditation that's actually worth annything; and that national accreditation is somehow substandard. Nothing could be further from the truth; and shame on the regional accreditors for such obnoxious and mean-spirited behavior! The result, though, in any case, is that many "regionally" accredited schools will turn-up their noses at nationally accredited transfer credits, or completed degrees as requisite for entery into higher-level degree programs at the regionally accredited schools. To combat this kind of discriminatory practice, CHEA created the "Higher Education Transfer Alliance" (HETA) to combat the problem by first educating the institutions, and then encouraging them to consider -- or, more accurately, to disabuse arrogant regionally accredited schools from refusing to consider -- all transfer credits and finished degrees from any school, as long said school is accredited by a USDE- and/or CHEA-approved agency. It is USDE and/or CHEA approval that matters, is HETA's message, and not whether the schools involved are "regionally" or "nationally" (or any other kind of) accredited. The crux of the imprimatur is USDE- and/or CHEA-approved accreditation. Period.

Most "national" accreditors came about in order to fulfill some need which the huge "regional" accreditors either didn't want to fulfill, or didn't think was economical to fulfill. Without DETC's trailblazing leadership in the area of distance education, for example, such as Harvard and Yale, today, would likely not offer coursework and even entire degrees, now, via distance learning. Most national accreditors don't charge as much money of their applicant schools as do the regional accreditors; and so, then, national accreditors help to provide more economical access to USDE's and/or CHEA's imprimatur than do the big and expensive regional accreditors.

All that notwithstanding, the regional accreditors, and their schools, have long felt quite immune to the efforts of the national accreditors, and their schools -- even with CHEA's support -- to achieve any kind of parity. The regionally accredited schools continue, in many cases, to turn-up their noses at nationally accredited transfer credits, and/or finished nationally-accredited degrees as requisite for entry into higher-level regionally-accredited degree programs. It is essential to understand, though, that the reason to be wary of obtaining a nationally- as opposed to a regionally-accredited degree is a practical, and not an academic-quality-related, one; that it is because the regionally-accredited schools will arrogantly tend to reject nationally-accredited transfer credits and degrees, and not because there's anything inherently sub-standard about them. If one wants an educational credential that's truly universally acceptable to other schools, to government, to employers, etc., then one's safest bet is to get one from a regionally accredited school. But -- and this is important -- because of the accreditation standards imposed by USDE and CHEA on all accreditors, regardless whether they're regional or national, there is no truly relevant difference in the quality of a nationally- versus a regionally-accredited degree. There just isn't.

Part of the problem is that people improperly categorize; that they try to apply the accreditation standards of academic degees onto those of professional or career-oriented ones, and so when the latter type falls academically short of the former type, the academic snob sitting in judgement casts aspersions onto the non-academic accreditor.

The difference between the academic Associate of Science (AS) degree, and the career-oriented Associate of Applied Science (AAS) degree helps to illustrate this. Both contain approximately sixty (60) US semester credit hours of coursework, and both may typically be obtained from a regionally accredited school. But the former contains a great deal more "lower-division general education" (LDGE) coursework than does the latter; but the latter contains more courses in the degree's major -- many of the quite practical, and hands-on variety -- than does the former. The former, then, is more academically sound, and so is more acceptable as requisite for entry into higher-level academic degree programs; while the latter is slightly less academically sound for purposes of entry into higher-level degrees, but is every bit as inherently sound in a more practical and potentially useful, career-oriented way. Because only that which is academically sound tends to be appreciated by academia, many in it turn-up their noses at an AAS, but think an AS is fine...

...even though both come from a regionally-accredited school! The difference, then, has nothing to do with academic rigor or anything else at which one would intuitively presume a regionally-accredited school would be better than a nationally-accredited one. The difference hinges almost entirely on academic versus professional higher education. True academics have never been keen on career-oriented, professional coursework... even though that's precisely the type of coursework contained in, for example, a Juris Doctor (JD) law degree, or a Master of Divinity (MDiv) theological degree (both of which, incidentally, may obe obtained from regionally-accredited institutions). We know they're professional, and not academic, because the next academic step up from both of them are academic masters degrees: a Master of Laws (LLM) for the JD holder, and a Master of Theology (ThM) for the MDiv holder. Only if the holder of the MDiv, for example, wished to remain on the professional, rather than the academic, side of things would the next step up for him/her be a doctoral level degree; but it would be a professional type... not a PhD but, rather, such as a Doctor of Ministry (DMin). If the MDiv holder wanted to get an academic Doctor of Philosophy (PhD), or academic Doctor of Theology (ThD), then s/he would first need to get the academic Master of Theology (ThM) as the vehicle for transitioning from the professional side of things to the academic side of things. Of course, there are always interesting exceptions: For example, if the MDiv holder got his/her MDiv from a regionally-accredited, but nevertheless religious and denominationally-affiliated school, then said school may very well -- in fact, would probably -- allow said MDiv holder to enter an academic PhD or ThD program, rather than a professional DMin one. So that which I've been writing, here, is just typical, but not necessarily absolute.

But it helps to bring us to an important point when it comes to this whole regional versus national accreditor thing: The world of regionally-accredited schools indeed offers all manner of professional (as opposed to entirely academic) coursework and degrees, but it tends to be more heavily weighted toward the truly academic. The world of nationally-accredited schools indeed offers all manner of academic (as opposed to entirely professional) coursework and degrees, but it tends to be more heavily weighted toward the at-least-mostly professional. One is not inherently better than the other; they're just different: Equally rigorous by general accreditation standards, but different in terms of academic versus professional content.

The confusion is exacerbated by such as Ashworth and Penn Foster colleges, which blur the academic/professional demarcation by their almost Wal-Mart style of doing business. Many in traditional academia regard such schools as inherently academically sub-standard because, well, let's face it: Those two schools are sort of the Wal-Mart of higher education. I've joked in some of my writings that signing-up for their courses really is a bit like going and pulling a blister-packaged bunch of books and study guides and CDs or DVDs and online passwords from a pegboard on a gondola in a Wal-Mart-like shopping aisle. Students are educated -- nay, almost processed -- through such schools like cattle, with minimal counseling and special help... help which, when it is available, is often cold and distant and never from the same person at the college twice.

Both schools also offer career diplomas, of the sort one sees advertised on local TV stations during business hours (because the schools know that that's when all the unemployed/under-employed are home, watching TV) in such areas as dental assisting, medical transcription or assisting, auto mechanics, gun smithing, etc. Acedemicians sometimes just refuse to accept that such schools could also offer LDGE (math, social and natural sciences, humanities, etc.) that's of the same quality as what a regionally accredited school could offer. But that's just sloppy thinking.

Even Ashworth and Penn Foster nevertheless meet their accreditor's standards; and, and as long as said accreditors are USDE- and/or CHEA-approved, said standards are very carefully controlled... identically controlled, in fact, regardless whether the accreditor is of the regional or national type.

If USDE and/or CHEA approval of accreditors is to actually mean anything, then the world must take, at face value, either or both of USDE's and/or CHEA's word that a given accreditor -- and, then, indirectly, its accredited schools -- is/are worthy. We cannot engage in such second-guessing as I'm seeing here, on this talk page; the very same kind of second guessing that I see in forums and on answer website pages. If the accreditor is USDE- and/or CHEA-approved, then, believe me, its requirements of its accredited schools are rigorous, indeed. The only differences in the various kinds of education tend to be related to professional versus academic differences; and part of the problem is the arrogant and snobbish pure academicians turning-up their noses at inherently practical and professional career-oriented coursework, as opposed to inherently academic coursework.

ACICS and "grandfathering" without CHEA review[edit]

ACICS was not "grandfathered" into CHEA, without review; nor has it not been reviewed, since... at least not as so saying seems to pejoratively suggest. CHEA fully first reviewed and admitted ACICS in May of 2001. There have been subsequent re-reviews in the years, since. Because of a technicality related to ACICS's ability to adequately oversee its accredited schools' provision of applied doctoral-level degrees (something at which CHEA has long balked when it comes to nationally-accredited schools because of the academic rigor that's required, even if the degree is professional in nature), CHEA deferred full recognition of ACICS and asked for additional information and clarification from it in September of 2011. ACICS remained approved, though, because its previous approval period had not yet expired. Once ACICS did everything CHEA asked, then CHEA fully recognized ACICS for three more years in September of 2012.

And, believe me, CHEA, along the way, held the national accreditor ACICS to its highest accreditation standards... the very same ones to which it holds its approved regional accreditors! From CHEA's October 2012 ACICS "Summary of Recognition Status" statement:

The CHEA Committee on Recognition and the Board of Directors reviewed the Accrediting Council for Independent Colleges and Schools (ACICS). The review was based on the six CHEA recognition standards that require an accrediting organization to show that its accreditation process advances academic quality, demonstrates accountability, encourages self-scrutiny and planning, employs fair and appropriate procedures and demonstrates ongoing review of practice, and that it possesses sufficient resources to carry out its accreditation processes (2006 CHEA Recognition Policy and Procedures, Paragraphs 12A-12F, pp. 5-8).

One may get some sense of what changed from the 2011 review and the 2012 review by seeing the differences between what ACICS proposed to CHEA should be its approved scope of accreditation in 2011, versus what CHEA finally approved in 2012, to wit:

The scope-of-accreditation statement that ACICS requested in 2011: "Accreditation of private postsecondary institutions offering certificates or diplomas, and post secondary institutions offering associate’s, bachelor’s, master’s, applied doctorate and first professional degrees in programs designed to educate students for professional, technical, or occupational degrees in programs designed to educate students for professional, technical, or occupational careers including those that offer those programs via distance education or internationally." (Source)

What CHEA actually approved in 2012: Accreditation of private postsecondary institutions offering certificates or diplomas, and postsecondary institutions offering associate’s, bachelor’s and master’s degrees in programs designed to educate students for professional, technical or occupational careers including those that offer those programs via distance education or internationally. (2006) (Source)

ACICS's ability to offer doctoral degrees clearly got nixed. But there's no shame, there. Even DETC, the national accreditor whom even academicians agree is probably better than ACICS -- and may well be on-par with most regional accreditors -- had tremendous trouble finally getting CHEA to allow it to accredit doctoral level programs. It takes time; and even I could have told ACICS that it's not ready.

CHEA, in any case, happily announed its September 2012 decision in an October 2012 press release. And CHEA shows ACICS on its website as "Recognized by the Council for Higher Education Accreditation and the U.S. Department of Education. The institutions listed here have been accredited by this accrediting organization as of January 24, 2012." (Source)

Click here for everything Google has regarding ACICS that's on the CHEA website.

The Wikipedia ACICS article needs serious and fair-minded rewriting/expansion[edit]

ACICS may or may not be a particularly good accreditor by regional accreditation standards, but as a purely professional/career school national accreditor, it's a far cry better than, for example, the Accrediting Commission of Career Schools and Colleges (ACCSC), which is USDE-approved, but which CHEA won't touch. That's not surprising, though: USDE, while concerned about quality, tends to be concerned about whatever minimum quality is necessary simply to assure that government money in the form of grants and loans to either the school or its students isn't throwing good money after bad. CHEA, on the other hand, tends to be more concerned about quality, for its sake. And so it's no surprise that USDE approves ACCSC, but not CHEA.

ACICS is approved by both, as is DETC, the arguably best of the USDE- and CHEA-approved national accreditors. ACICS is generally considered nearly as good as DETC... if not as good. ACICS simply accredits almost exclusively on the professional (as opposed to the academic) side of higher education; whereas DETC does that and also holds its own, even against regional accreditors, as a purely academic accreditor, too.

Within its narrow area of accreditation, ACICS is as good as it gets; and if USDE and/or CHEA approval is to actually mean anything, then those organizations's imprimatur is all that any of us need to know. The Wikipedia article, then, needs to be rewritten, but this time without all the hesitation to give ACICS its due...

...which hesitation is clearly evidenced in both the article, and the comments, here. ACICS is by no stretch of the imagination my favorite accreditor; but it deserves the respect that CHEA's and USDE's imprimatur naturally accords it. There is no room for regional versus national opinionating and questioning in this Wikipedia article.

If everyone would like me to rewrite it, then, fine, I will... and without gushing over it. I like ACICS, but not so much that I can't maintain my neutrality when writing about it, here; and since I know all the criticism of it -- where all the bodies are buried, if you will -- I'm quite likely to create a credible "Criticism" section, as well. Wikipedia articles always need to show both sides.

Hope that helps. Signed: Gregg L. DesElms (Username: Deselms) (talk) 05:22, 23 December 2012 (UTC)

Comments and responses to DesElms's above[edit]

Orlady's comment: Wow, the foregoing is a heckuva comment to have to reply to in this format!

It appears that you are very knowledgable on this topic, Mr. Deselms. You can be a big help to Wikipedia. It appears that your greatest interest is in contributing a critical evaluation of ACICS and rating of different accreditors, but I'd like you to be aware that such an evaluation is not appropriate content for Wikipedia. Wikipedia policies require a neutral point of view -- we can't publish opinion pieces. Another policy states that Wikipedia is not a publisher of original research -- everything in the encyclopedia must be based on content published somewhere else, ideally in secondary sources. Furthermore, Wikipedia is not a guidebook, advice source, or directory.

If you have information about encyclopedic topics like the history of this organization (potentially including changes in its scope over the years) and can cite sources for that content, please add your content to the article. Please, however, refrain from adding opinion or original analysis, including assessments of which accreditor or type of accreditation is good/better/best. Furthermore, please note that this article about a specific national accreditor is not the appropriate place for information on the different types of accreditors in the United States; that topic is addressed centrally in articles like Higher education accreditation in the United States, which should be linked from articles like this one. --Orlady (talk) 06:25, 23 December 2012 (UTC)

DesElms's response: Please don't lecture me about how things work around here. I'm not a newbie; and was, once, in fact, asked if I wanted to be an admin, just like you. My purpose, here, at the request of someone who was posting here, was to simply chime-in and clear-up some things. I wrote it the way I wrote it because this is the ACICS Wikipedia articles "talk" page, not the article, itself. The point of my above was to educate and disabuse some of their wrong-headedness so that, armed with that information, they could then re-write the article so that it would not ooze so much suspicion of both ACICS and national accreditation, as it now does. Your chiding of me, here, would be appropriate if I had tried to add to the article, itself, what you're curiously, given that this is only the "talk" page, telling me should not be in the article. I know what should and shouldn't be in the article, thankyouverymuch. This is, again, just the "talk" page, where people learn and agree to things so that the article, itself, may be up to Wikipedia standards... which I know well. It's difficult not to suspect, from your comments directed at me, that you're not interested in stifling that.
Gregg L. DesElms (Username: Deselms) (talk) 06:45, 23 December 2012 (UTC)
Rich Farmbrough's comment/response: Yes, Orlady is one of the good folk, have no worries. Obviously they did assume you were a newbie (I get newbie templates sometimes, even after a million edits) and wanted to help edit effectively.
I am very impressed, not only with the depth of your knowledge (which I suspected from your comments elsewhere) but your understanding of the social and cultural factors involved. And I understand now very clearly (and share your view on academic snobbery) the distinctions between regional and national accreditation, and when it is and isn't important. (While I don't share the anonymous view of ACICS, I do think it is a bad thing that almost every regulatory body in the world is either made up of those it is supposed to regulate or those who will lend up working for the regulatees - I am sure, you are probably more familiar than me with regulatory capture.)
I think it would be excellent if you could expand/rewrite this article - for the sake of the encylopedia. You have already provided all the information I wanted (and more), for which many thanks.
Rich Farmbrough, 00:55, 25 December 2012 (UTC).
DesElms's response: Honestly, Rich, I don't know why I didn't reply to this earlier. I certainly remember reading it back when you first posted in December. Perhaps I got sidetracked by being offended by Orlady...
...whom, by the way, I've since decided is cool, just like you wrote. I shouldn't have been so kneejerk reactive. My bad. Anyway, I don't know when I'll find the time to improve the ACICS article. Part of the reason I provided so much information in my above, here on this "Talk" page, was so that maybe others, armed with it, could then jump in and bring some balance to the main article. It is still my hope that that will happen. In the meantime, I'll see what time I can carve out.
Thanks for your nice comments.
Gregg L. DesElms (Username: Deselms) (talk) 03:38, 22 February 2013 (UTC)

Alex's Comment I am afraid this might be too much of an opinion to place on the page itself, but I used to be a professor at a state university with doctoral degrees (though not in my department), and I was the graduate coordinator for my department for a while. ACICS accreditation is fine for technical schools - ones that offer certificates, or associates degrees that are intended as terminal degrees. The problem comes if you try to earn some sort of academic credential, and then go further someplace else - in that case, in my experience, ACICS accrediation is essentially worthless. Specifically, credits would not transfer directly - every credit you wanted transferred had to be appealed to the department, where (in our case) a professor would look at whatever materials you had from the course. If you didn't have a good sample of homework and test, then no credit. Likewise, a baccalaureate degree from an ACICS school didn't satify the requirement to be admitted into the Master's program. You could challenge it, but no one ever even tried. Things might be different in a nursing department, I was in a Computer Science department which got more interest from graduates of ACICS schools than, say a Philosophy department might, but I'm sure not as much as some other departments got.

In my opinion, ACICS would have been fine if they had stuck to technical schools, and it was clear that these were not programs that would serve as effecient stepping stones to an academic degree. Unfortuanately, some of the schools they accredit offer baccalaureate and Masters degrees, and while some of those degrees will serve their owners well, many will be bitterly disappointed. I've seen it happen.

Incidentally, the school I worked at was very much a "red brick" university, not top tier by any means. I'm sure at AAU universities, it's even worse for graduates of ACICS schools. AlexFeldman (talk) 01:28, 18 June 2013 (UTC)