Should Agency That Provided Accreditation To Corinthian Colleges Be Held Accountable In School’s Failure?

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Up until the day it collapsed in 2015, for-profit education chain Corinthian Colleges Inc. was accredited by Accrediting Council for Independent Colleges and Schools (ACICS), one of the nation’s largest federally recognized accrediting bodies. With taxpayers potentially on the hook for hundreds of millions of dollars in forgiven student loans, the California Attorney General is calling on the Department of Education to revoke federal recognition of ACICS.

In a letter [PDF] sent today to Secretary of Education John King, California Attorney General Kamala Harris argues that, through its continued accreditation of Corinthian, ACICS failed to uphold its stated commitment “to the importance of a quality educational experience for all students.”

The AG contends that students and consumers relied on “accreditation” to mean that the schools met peer-reviewed standards of academic quality, financial stability, and operational ethics — all things that were not present with CCI as noted by its collapse, investigations, and lawsuits related to business practices.

“Relying on this accreditation, vulnerable students and veterans continued to attend Corinthian campuses and as a result suffered significant financial and educational losses in pursuit of job prospects that rarely materialized,” the letter states. “The failure of ACICS in accrediting Corinthian continues to affect former students and veterans to this day, through the loss of family stability and expected earning potential as well as the loss of G.I. Bill benefits that cannot be restored,”

With the letter, Harris expresses support for 13 other state Attorneys General who previously voiced their concerns over the renewal of ACICS as an accreditation agency.

Following the collapse of CCI last year, lawmakers opened an inquiry into how improve the oversight of agencies that one might assume provide an indictor as to whether or not a particular school has met high standards for education and financial security. It’s unclear how that inquiry has progressed.

The committee’s inquiry came just weeks after the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau requested documents from ACICS related to its accreditation of for-profit colleges.

The Bureau’s request was part of its investigating into possible “unlawful acts and practices in connection with accrediting for-profit colleges,” according to Insider Higher Ed.

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