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Education Dept. Revokes Recognition of Embattled Accreditor of For-Profit Colleges

[Last updated (9/22/2016, 8:26 p.m.) with additional reaction.]

The U.S. Education Department has decided to revoke the federal recognition of the Accrediting Council for Independent Colleges and Schools, the much-maligned accreditor of many for-profit colleges.

Emma Vadehra, chief of staff to the secretary of education, wrote in a letter on Thursday that she agreed with the recommendations of Education Department analysts and the National Advisory Committee on Institutional Quality and Integrity, which were issued in June.

The accreditor has been accused of lax oversight of for-profit colleges, including the now-defunct ITT Educational Services Inc. and Corinthian Colleges.

Ms. Vadehra’s decision was not unexpected, and it does not represent the end of the road for the accreditor, which plans to appeal the ruling to the secretary of education, John B. King Jr.

In a written statement, Steve Gunderson, president of Career Education Colleges and Universities, the for-profit sector’s main trade association, said the department’s decision would have “horrible ramifications for hundreds of thousands of students, thousands of dedicated faculty and staff, and hundreds of communities and employers that rely on institutions accredited by Acics.”

The department, he said, “once again takes the path of greatest destruction” as part of its “war on the sector.”

Sen. Lamar Alexander, chairman of the U.S. Senate education committee, also mentioned the implications for students in a comment on the department’s action.

“With this decision, 245 colleges will start the extraordinarily difficult hunt to find a new accreditor within 18 months, while 600,000 students’ degrees and dollars hang in the balance,” Senator Alexander, a Tennessee Republican, said in a written statement. “I will be watching this closely to ensure that the department is prepared to help students and colleges navigate the consequences of this unprecedented decision.”

Sen. Elizabeth Warren, a Massachusetts Democrat who also serves on the education committee, said in posts on Twitter that the department had done “the right thing” to protect students and taxpayers by withdrawing its recognition of Acics as an accreditor.

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