Internal Dept. of Education Analysis Shows ACICS In Violation With 57 Criteria

In direct response to a lawsuit filed by the National Student Legal Defense Network (“NSLDN”) on behalf of The Century Foundation (“TCF”), the U.S. Department of Education today released its career staff’s analysis of the Accrediting Council for Independent Colleges and Schools’ (“ACICS”) suitability to once again serve as an accreditor of institutions of higher education.

The Career Staff Report shows the ACICS remains out of compliance with 57 criteria, just as Secretary DeVos is poised to consider its application for federal recognition. Read the full Report, which NSLDN and TCF have uploaded in four parts, here:

The Department’s release of the materials on Friday, June 8, comes after a protracted legal dispute in which ACICS has fought tooth and nail to block the document’s release. Tuesday evening, ACICS withdrew its attempt to intervene ahead of a court deadline, paving the way for the public to see what the Department career staff really think of the embattled accreditor.

Additionally, today’s release comes after Sec. DeVos, in a written response to the office of Rep. DeLauro (D-CT), suggested that her agency would not consider the findings of the staff report when making a decision on ACICS’s reinstatement in the coming weeks, writing: “The Department will not consider the application for initial recognition filed by ACICS as part of its review of the 2016 final agency decision, including evidence submitted as part of that application.”

Further, Secretary DeVos noted that her agency would only consider evidence related to the initial 2016 decision that ACICS was noncompliant, adding: “[The Department] will provide an opportunity for ACICS to provide additional relevant information in response to the 2016 findings, which could include more recent evidence ACICS provides.”

NSLDN and TCF representatives issued the following in response:

“It’s no wonder that ACICS and Secretary DeVos didn’t want this report to come out. Clearly, she was well aware that ACICS was getting worse, not better, and has been working to help them anyway. If she cares at all about protecting students or the billions of taxpayer dollars at stake, she must listen to her own Department’s career experts and deny ACICS permanent reinstatement,” said Alex Elson, Senior Counsel at the NSLDN.

“This report makes clear that ACICS is a wholly unfit and unreliable evaluator of higher education institutions: its decisions are not recognized by educators, schools, or employers across the United States, and it has shown zero evidence that it can make decisions that protect students and consumers. Betsy DeVos may be content with ignoring the overwhelming outside consensus on ACICS’s performance, but she cannot deny the expert opinions of her own staff. It’s time she put an end to this opaque process and denied recognition to ACICS,” said Robert Shireman, senior fellow at TCF.

“The department’s previous decision to derecognize ACICS was based in large part on the likelihood that the accreditor would not come back into compliance over the course of 12 months. Now, 18 months later, that determination is validated — the number of areas in which ACICS is noncompliant has nearly tripled. It is beyond reason that Secretary DeVos would consider allowing such an egregious actor to once again give institutions a federal stamp of approval and grant them access to taxpayer-financed aid,” said Tariq Habash, senior policy associate at TCF.


The National Student Legal Defense Network (NSLDN) is a non-profit organization that works, through litigation and advocacy, to advance students’ rights to educational opportunity and to ensure that higher education provides a launching point for economic mobility. Follow the organization on Twitter at @StudentLegalNet and learn more at

The Century Foundation (TCF) is a progressive public policy think tank that seeks to foster opportunity, reduce inequality, and promote security at home and abroad. Founded in 1919, TCF pursues its mission by conducting timely, nonpartisan research and policy analysis that informs citizens, guides policymakers, and reshapes what government does for the better. TCF is based in New York, with an office in Washington, D.C. Follow the organization on Twitter at @TCFdotorg and learn more at