Now that the Department of Education (“ED”) is committed to revamping the Borrower Defense to Repayment rules and procedures, I thought it was time to re-visit an old foe. I was disappointed to find Accrediting Counsel for Independent Colleges and Schools (“ACISC”) was STILL in business. Despite the sudden closures of ITT Tech and Corinthian Colleges under its watch, it’s still out there, in part due to Secretary DeVos’ leadership of ED and former President Trump reinstating the accreditor in 2018.
This year, career staff at ED have again recommended that ACICS lose its accreditation power because it failed to demonstrate that it has competent and knowledgeable individuals, qualified by education and experience. For example, when ACICS visited Reagan National University and didn’t locate any instructional material, it didn’t even note the lack of materials as a deficiency in its report. ED stated that several other red flags were overlooked as well during site visits, USA Today reported in March 2021.
There are two levels of reviews and appeals available to ACISC which they are certain to use if nothing else to run out the clock.
One of the best ways to avoid reliance on a flawed system is to evaluate the school yourself. ED has a tool which we’ve talked about before called College Scorecard which tracks university graduation rates, salary ranges, costs and other demographics. It’s a great place to start.
I’d also ignore the online marketing of schools. For example, when google trends showed that the term “start next month” was trending very high during the early days of the pandemic, for profit schools began heavily marketing for those students and emphasizing their online learning opportunities. That’s how people chose schools like Argosy, that eventually shut down leaving their students in the lurch. Try to research actual reviews by former students who should the best source of information about the education itself, as well as whether that education actually opened doors for them upon graduation. We’ve heard from some clients that employers actually suggested they leave a school like ITT or IADT off of their resume as it actually hurts their chances of employment. Reviews are huge — and speak volumes about a product or service from actual customers.
I hope those tips help you or your family avoid being trapped by unscrupulous for-profit schools. We have several other blogs with tips on how to keep college costs down: