The Accrediting Council for Independent Colleges & Schools (ACICS) accredited a college which appears to have no faculty or students after Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos reversed an Obama era decision to shutter the federal agency after it accredited colleges that defrauded students, according to a new investigation.
The ACICS, which accredited now-shuttered for-profit schools, including ITT Tech, Corinthian Colleges, and Brightwood College, was shut down by former President Obama's administration in 2016. The department argued at the time that the agency, which oversaw 725 schools and more than $3 billion in federal financial aid, "exhibited a profound lack of compliance" with the "most basic" responsibilities of an accreditor.
A judge allowed DeVos, who has often sided with for-profit institutions, to reinstate the ACICS in 2018, The Washington Post reported. A former Obama administration official told the outlet that Devos "ignored her career staff's 57 findings of ACICS's noncompliance." The education secretary similarly came under fire for ignoring career staff when she gutted a debt relief program for students defrauded by the for-profit colleges accredited by ACICS.
After losing dozens of colleges and their membership fees after it was shut down, the agency had a need for new members. It accredited institutions with dubious operations, including a South Dakota "university" which does appears to have "no students, no faculty and no classrooms," according to the joint investigation by USA Today and The Argus Leader.
With its membership down from 290 institutions to just 63, the ACICS accredited Reagan National University in Sioux Falls following Trump's inauguration, when its future was still in doubt. Years later, the college appears to have no social media presence and its website is riddled with error pages. The only mention of the college on Twitter was in reference to a politician in Ghana accused of having a fake degree, according to the report.