The Trump administration is defending, at least for now, the Obama Education Department’s decision last year to yank federal recognition from the nation’s largest accreditor of for-profit colleges. Government attorneys representing Education Secretary Betsy DeVos wrote in court papers over the weekend that the Obama administration acted appropriately when it revoked recognition of the Accrediting Council for Independent Colleges and Schools, known as ACICS. The department accused the accreditor of routinely approving too many discredited for-profit schools and failing to take action against dishonest institutions.
– The Trump administration wrote in the filing that the decision to nix ACICS was “reasonable and supported by ample evidence in the administrative record.” Attorneys representing the department argued the decision followed proper procedures and regulations for terminating an accreditor. ACICS argues the Obama administration acted arbitrarily and unfairly. The judge overseeing the case in the U.S. District Court in Washington, D.C. is now turning to the substance of the case after twice rejecting the accreditor’s efforts to obtain emergency and preliminary orders blocking the decision. Read the latest DeVos filing here.
– What to watch next: The judge has previously said he’ll let a handful of Democratic state attorneys general weigh in before approving any settlement between the Trump administration and ACICS. Those AGs had pressed the Education Department to terminate the accreditor and they have sought to intervene in the lawsuit challenging the termination. But it’s possible that in the meantime, ACICS could also re-apply for federal recognition before the Trump administration.
– The legal battle over ACICS’s fate comes as deadlines approach for the hundreds of colleges that relied on the accreditor’s stamp to access federal grants and student loans. The colleges, most of which are for-profit and collectively enrolled nearly 600,000 students last year, have to find another accreditor to keep federal funding flowing to their campuses. Under a timeline established by the Obama administration, the schools have to apply for accreditation elsewhere by June 12 and make progress on those applications by Oct. 10 to remain fully eligible for federal student aid. Those deadlines could be changed by the Trump administration.