By Caitlin R. McGlade, Contact Reporter
January 12, 2017
Dozens of for-profit colleges in South Florida could lose
accreditation after a federal decision to strip authority from the
agency that approved them.
Schools, including the Florida
Technical College, Digital Media Arts College and the Lincoln Technical
Institute, must agree to increased government oversight and apply to a
new accreditation agency if they wish to keep their status.
That label is required to continue receiving federal student aid.
Accredited schools also are more likely to attract high-quality faculty
and students and are more likely to get permission to add academic
programs than those that are not, said Curtis Austin, director of
Florida Association of Postsecondary Schools and Colleges.
who finish their diplomas within the next 18 months will not be
affected as long as their colleges agree to additional monitoring,
transparency, oversight and accountability measures. The move will not
compromise the quality of their diplomas, according to the U.S.
Department of Education.
250 institutions receiving federal student aid earned accreditation
through the agency determined unfit to oversee them. More than 100
career colleges in Florida bear the agency's seal of approval, Curtis
The U.S. Department of Education said the agency, the
Accrediting Council for Independent Colleges and Schools, failed to
properly monitor the institutions it approved and was too lax on student
achievement standards, among other violations.
decision reflects is the fact that ACICS was an agency that for years
was little more than a rubber stamp for some highly problematic
colleges," said Ben Miller, senior director for postsecondary education
at the Center for American Progress.
His Washington, D.C.-based
organization released a report in June that found 90 instances when the
agency named campuses or colleges to its honor roll about the same time
the state or federal government was investigating them.
That included FastTrain College in Miami. The U.S. Department of Justice
filed a complaint against the institution in 2014, saying that it hired
strippers and attractive women to persuade men to enroll. The former
president was later convicted of stealing millions in federal financial
aid, according to the report.
"It gets named on [the agency's] honor roll, and a year later it's being raided by the FBI for fraud," Miller said.
council also accredited Corinthian Colleges, which was ordered in March
to pay more than $1 billion for defrauding its students.
agency appealed the Department of Education's decision, but Secretary
John B. King Jr. rejected it, writing that the council "is not capable
of coming into compliance within 12 months or less." It has appealed the
decision in federal court.
Advocates for the agency argue that
the decision is an unfair slight on the for-profit college industry that
will shutter independent schools across the nation.
under the agency's watch do not automatically lose their status: they
have 18 months to find another agency to accredit them before the
government cuts off their financial aid as long as they agree to follow
federal requirements in the meantime.
Florida Technical College,
for example, is currently pursuing accreditation through a different
agency, said James Michael Burkett, president.
Gunderson, president and CEO of Career Education Colleges and
Universities, said many schools won't be able to earn accreditation in
Getting new accreditation costs up to $50,000 per campus, a price tag that may doom some institutions on its own, he said.
theres's no guarantee that they'll secure the status. Other
accreditation agencies will be overloaded with requests from schools
searching to regain their status, he said.
"Because of the number
of schools accredited by ACICS, there is no way that all of these
schools can transfer their accreditation during an 18-month period," he
Colleges may also not get approved for re-accreditation or
may have to make changes to meet standards that differ from agency to
agency, Gunderson said.
Miller argued that will result in tighter controls on federal spending.
are the ones paying for the federal financial aid students are using at
these schools and so if there is not sufficient oversight, then we're
wasting other people's hard-earned money," Miller said.
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