February 20, 2018

Accreditor Scolds School That DeVos May Reward

Accreditor Scolds School That DeVos May Reward

Politico recently reported that Trump Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos may be ready to reverse a 2016 Obama Administration decision that rejected the application of the predatory CollegeAmerica/Stevens-Henager chain to be treated as a non-profit school for purposes of Department regulation. Such an about-face by the DeVos Department would reduce accountability measures for the previously for-profit college chain, run by the wealthy Carl Barney, even though the chain, which sold itself to a non-profit organization on questionable terms, has engaged in a range of troubling acts that have harmed students and taxpayers and led to multiple law enforcement investigations and lawsuits.

Just as DeVos seems to be embracing the predatory Barney chain, which gets most of its revenue from taxpayer dollars, its schools face renewed criticism from the private accrediting body whose approval is required to maintain eligibility for federal student grants and loans.

Last week, the Accrediting Commission of Career Schools and Colleges (ACCSC) informed CollegeAmerica’s Denver campus that it would remain on “Warning” status because of continuing concerns about educational outcomes and legal compliance. In a February 12, 2017, letter to the Denver campus director, ACCSC executive director Michale McComis states that the campus “continues to report below-benchmark rates of student achievement” and “has not resolved significant compliance issues with state and federal agencies.”

The letter recounts that ACCSC has been documenting deficiencies in graduation rates and job placement at the campus for more than five years. In 2017, ACCSC revoked its approval of BA programs at the campus.

The ACCSC letter informs CollegeAmerica-Denver that it must achieve compliance with the accreditor’s standards by April 2019, but that ACCSC “is under no obligation to wait for the maximum timeframe to expire” before taking action against the school.

Two other CollegeAmerica Colorado campuses — Fort Collins and Colorado Springs — also remain on warning status with ACCSC.

In 2016, the Barney chain was seeking to move to a different accreditor, ACICS, but, soon after, the Obama Department of Education de-recognized ACICS, citing that accreditor’s failure to address abuses at a range of colleges it was supposed to oversee. Now DeVos appears to be on the path to restoring ACICS as well, continuing her Department’s pattern of tailoring policy to the wishes of most egregiously predatory for-profit schools.  Twenty state attorneys general have just sent a letter to DeVos urging her not to re-instate ACICS.

UPDATE 02-20-18 11:05 am:

Former for-profit college CEO Raul Valdes Pages commented on Twitter: “I believe College America has been in and out of Accrediting deficiencies with ACCSC for several years. Amazing actions are not more severe in my opinion.”

I agree.