College Accredited By DeVos-Sanctioned Group Seems To Have No Students, Faculty
The Accrediting Council for Independent Colleges & Schools (ACICS) approved federal funding for Reagan National University, which appeared to have no students, no faculty, and no classrooms, USA Today reported.
Accrediting agencies are independent groups that have huge importance: if they approve a college, the government agrees to give federal grants and loans to the students there. The accrediting agency was financially troubled and losing members fast. It was saved by the Education Department in 2018.
ACICS has a history of approving questionable colleges, such as ITT Tech, Corinthian Colleges, and Brightwood College, which were massive for-profit universities that suddenly closed last decade and left thousands of students without degrees, undermining the value of education of those who graduated. President Barack Obama’s Education Department stripped ACICS’ powers in 2016.
Education Secretary Betsy DeVos and President Trump’s administration reinstated the accrediting agency, but their decision to approve Reagan National University calls into question ACICS’ ability to hold colleges accountable.
USA Today contacted several people listed as faculty on the university’s website, yet four of them taught at different universities and said they had never worked at Reagan.
A reporter visited the listed addresses for the university in Sioux Falls. Both had signs bearing the school’s name, but the doors were locked and the office suite was dark in one location while the suite was mostly empty in the other.
ACICS officials can take nine to 18 months reviewing universities when approving schools. The process includes multiple site visits, dozens of documents to review, and a daylong initial accreditation workshop to learn more about ACICS’ rules. It is unclear how long Reagan National University had been operating without students or faculty, but ACICS said Reagan had met its standards during the accreditation process. It did not specifically say how it had verified the college.
The Education Department is continuing to stand by ACICS.
“The Department expects all accreditors to hold schools accountable to their accreditation standards, and if they don’t, we will hold the accreditors themselves accountable,” spokeswoman Angela Morabito said in a statement. “Without the Department conducting an independent investigation of the school, it appears that ACICS followed proper procedure, applied the appropriate sanctions, and the school is no longer accredited.”