Newspaper article Charleston Gazette Mail

Big Accreditor of For-Profit Colleges Could Lose Authority

Newspaper article Charleston Gazette Mail

Big Accreditor of For-Profit Colleges Could Lose Authority

Article excerpt

WASHINGTON - A group that accredits many of the nation's for- profit colleges, including schools once owned by Corinthian Colleges Inc., fought an effort Thursday to terminate its federal recognition due to lax oversight. That action could close schools and threaten financial aid to hundreds of thousands of students. At a meeting of an advisory panel to the Education Department, where the staff has already recommended deciding against the group, the head of the Accrediting Council for Independent Colleges and Schools acknowledged missteps.

"We sincerely believe that we can solve and address the legitimate issues the department has flagged, Anthony Bieda said. "We do not say this lightly and we take the department's concerns very seriously.

Bieda said the council had made changes, including stepped-up monitoring of its schools and a new committee to review standards and practices.

The advisory panel - the National Advisory Committee on Institutional Quality and Integrity - was expected to vote later Thursday whether to continue to recognize the council as an accrediting agency. It oversees about 250 colleges and schools and more than 600 additional campuses in 47 states, covering about 800,000 students.

The council's schools received $4.7 billion in federal aid last year for its students.

Stripping the council of federal recognition would leave schools unable to participate in federal financial aid programs such as student loans and Pell Grants. A vote to recommend termination would go to Education Department leaders, and if the decision was to sever ties, then schools would have 18 months to find a new accreditor.

"Under the best of circumstances, it takes schools a year to 18 months to get accredited, said Terry Hartle, senior vice president of the American Council on Education.

Hartle said institutions that have experienced problems, such as ITT Technical Institute, "are probably not going to be the first ones to receive accreditation from other accreditors. They're going to be looked at very carefully. …

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