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September 22, 2016

ITT Technical Institute was one of the for-profit chains accredited by ACICS. It shut down in early September, after the U.S. Department of Education found it was lying about graduation and job placement rates.

The U.S. Department of Education on Thursday stripped the Accrediting Council for Independent Colleges and Schools (ACICS) -- the nation’s largest accreditor of for-profit colleges -- of its right to certify schools. 

ACICS accredits hundreds of technical and career colleges, including 11 campuses in Massachusetts. The agency handled $4.76 billion dollars in federal student aid last year alone, according to a report by Inside Higher Ed.

The news comes just weeks after ITT Technical Institute -- one of the for-profit chains accredited by ACICS -- shut down all 137 of its campuses nationwide. The federal government froze federal student aid when it found the career school lied about graduation and job placement rates. 

According to federal officials, the Council also continued to accredit Corinthian Colleges, even after revelations the for-profit chain misled students and lied about graduation rates.

In a letter to ACICS on Thursday, a top Department of Education official informed the agency it would be losing its recognition

Federal and local officials are praising the Department's decision.

“This so-called watchdog did nothing but enable the for-profit school industry to defraud students and taxpayers," Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey said in a statement. "We urge the Department to use all immediate measures to protect students currently enrolled at schools accredited by ACICS so they can find the quality, affordable education they deserve.” 

Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass) took to Twitter on Thursday, saying the Department "did the right thing."

"College accreditation is supposed to make sure kids get a good education while college take taxpayer money. But the system is broken," Sen. Warren wrote.

(A few hours before the decision was announced, Warren introduced legislation aimed at improving the college accreditation process.) 

Related: After ITT Shutdown, A Look At For-Profit College's Role In Higher Ed

ACICS said on Thursday it will appeal the Department's decision. 

“While we are disappointed in this decision, ACICS plans to continue diligent efforts to renew and strengthen its policies and practices necessary to demonstrate this agency’s determination to come into full compliance with the Department of Education’s recognition criteria and, most importantly, to improve outcomes for the estimated 600,000 students currently attending ACICS-accredited institutions,” ACICS interim President Roger Williams said in a statement. “We are confident that if given the opportunity to do so, we will be able to demonstrate major reforms and ongoing progress towards compliance with the Department’s recognition criteria.”

U.S. Secretary of Education John B. King Jr. will review the appeal. If he strikes it down, colleges previously accredited by ACICS will have 18 months to find a new accreditor, or get cut off from federal funding.

Earlier: Amherst College: 1,900 Students. 850 Courses. What's Not To Like?

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