An old adage teaches, ‘if at first you don’t succeed, try, try again.’ In recent months, the troubled Accrediting Council for Independent Colleges and Schools (ACICS) tried and lost two legal attempts to recover eligibility for federal education funds.
But don’t be surprised if a third ACICS effort soon makes its way to the desk of U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos. Secretary DeVos brings to her position a long record of support for private education. The vast majority of schools formerly accredited by ACICS were private, for-profit colleges.
If ACICS sounds familiar to readers, there’s a reason. In December 2016, then-Education Secretary John B. King ruled that the educational accreditor would no longer be recognized by the department. That action also meant that none of ACICS’ 240 institutions would have access to federal funds – including the 17 institutions that have been sued by either state or federal officials for defrauding students and other deceptive practices.
Last year, shortly before Christmas and on Dec. 21, ACICS’ request for a temporary restraining order was denied. Then in late February, DC’s U.S. District Judge Reggie B. Walton refused to rescind the Education Department’s ruling.
So what would make ACICS and its institutions so determined to have federal funding restored?
The answer is money. Each year, $129 billion is spent on federal student aid. In just one year—2015—ACICS schools received nearly $5 billion in taxpayer dollars. It is also legal for up to 90 percent of for-profit college revenues to come from Title IV federal aid. If veterans’ financial aid is added to that of Title IV, taxpayer dollars can subsidize even more than 90 percent of for-profit revenues.