Commentary: Attorney General Hector Balderas has joined 20 attorneys general in opposing an application by the Accrediting Council for Independent Colleges and Schools (ACICS) to regain its status as a nationally-recognized accreditor, noting the accreditor’s “extreme and far-reaching oversight failures” and the serious harm it caused students and taxpayers across the country by enabling fraud and abuse by predatory for-profit schools.
“Thousands of New Mexican students have been defrauded by predatory, for-profit education companies, and Secretary DeVos knows that ACICS helped perpetrate this massive fraud across New Mexico and the country,” said Attorney General Balderas. “I am calling on President Trump’s administration to reject ACICS's application in order to protect hard working students seeking to improve their lives.”
ACICS’s oversight failures include its decision to extend accreditation to schools like ITT Tech, which the Office of the Attorney General filed suit against, and campuses operated by Corinthian College in New Mexico. ACICS continued accrediting Corinthian even after upwards of 20 state and federal agencies initiated investigations into Corinthian’s fraud, and up until the day Corinthian declared bankruptcy.
There are other examples of ACICS’ failure to identify compliance problems and enforce its accreditation standards. In November 2015, Attorney General Hector Balderas announced that Education Management Corporation (EDMC) would significantly reform its recruiting and enrollment practices, and forgive more than $632,000 in loans for approximately 553 former New Mexico students of Brown Mackie College due to a settlement with the New Mexico Office of the Attorney General.
In addition to comments filed by 20 attorneys general, Attorney General Balderas submitted his own comments outlining New Mexico’s position and the harm done to its students by private, predatory education companies. The Department of Education terminated ACICS’s recognition just over a year ago due to ACICS’s pervasive oversight failures. Under the Department’s regulations, the attorneys general assert, ACICS cannot meet the threshold eligibility requirements for receiving national recognition.
Accreditors serve a critical role in ensuring that schools provide students with an education that meets minimum standards of quality. They function as gatekeepers, protecting students from abuse by institutions that offer education of little-to-no value. When accreditors, like ACICS, fail to fulfill this responsibility, they enable abusive schools to cheat students and families under the guise of providing an education.
Please see attached for a copy of Attorney General Balderas’ comments, and the comments of 20 other attorneys general opposing the ACICS application.