ACICS is the Accrediting Council for Independent Colleges and Schools and it’s an accreditor of colleges – one of the organizations that is supposed to supervise, scrutinize and certify that a college meets certain standards of quality.
Hiring managers and HR departments should know about ACICS because it currently authorizes about 165 schools to operate – blessing them with the ability to access federal grant and loan dollars to teach and award degrees. Most of the schools under the ACICS umbrella are for-profit colleges, schools we know to provide the worst outcomes across nearly every metric from high student debt and default rates to low graduation and employment rates.
And it’s possible to walk through how ACICS repeatedly failed to regulate its colleges, allowing many of them to fail, stranding hundreds of thousands of students. And how it was so bad that President Obama’s Department of Education revoked its ability to oversee colleges at all – a move President Trump reversed, keeping it and its for-profit college corporations in business. Or how its lack of oversight has now triggered former students to sue the Department of Education for simply keeping it alive, alleging, ACICS, “continued its pattern of accrediting many of the nation’s worst for-profit colleges.”
The ACICS colleges are statically so bad that their “graduates” are routinely unemployable. “Students who attend ACICS accredited institutions are shown to be less employable than students who attend other institutions,” Michael Itzkowitz, a senior fellow for higher education at Third Way, a centrist think tank, told me. Itzkowitz, the former director of the College Scorecard at the U.S. Department of Education, continued, “ In fact, only 35% of students at ACICS institutions earn more than a high school graduate after they attend. ”
And yet, ACICS keeps allowing their schools to churn out students with lofty sounding credentials but questionable skills. That ought to be reason enough for hiring managers to routinely check whether an applicant’s degree is from an ACICS college. That’s easy to do by entering a school’s name on the ACICS search tool.
But HR managers and hiring leaders may want to actually print the ACICS college list out and tape it to their computer screens because, unbelievably, as bad as ACICS has been, it’s probably on the verge of being even worse.
That’s because ACICS itself is in financial trouble, recently telling an oversight committee that it was going to lose $2.1 million this year. ACICS said it did not anticipate returning to financial viability until 2023.
ACICS is in rough financial waters because of the backwards way in which accreditors make money – from dues paid by the colleges they grace with accreditation. And because ACICS has been in trouble and under increased attention, its members have either folded up shop or fled to other accreditors. In two years, ACICS has gone from approving 245 “schools” to just 165, blowing a hole in its budget.
That exodus and corresponding debt have had two consequences.
One, the remaining schools in the ACICS basket, as Itzkowitz wrote for The Hill, “represent the bottom of the bottom of the barrel.” And, “Presumably because those institutions with better outcomes were able to find another accreditor, the leftovers are some of the worst of the worst,” he wrote.
Two, if you thought ACICS oversight of their academic profiteers was bad before – and it was – how rigorous do you think they’ll be now that they literally cannot afford to lose any more dues-paying schools? It’s rhetorical. Not much is the answer.
It’s indefensible that colleges that perform so poorly are allowed to stay in business, and business is absolutely the business they’re in. It’s just as indefensible that an accreditor like ACICS is allowed to keep saying yes when the results are clearly no.
Students in the for-profit ACICS schools clearly suffer – investing time and money in a process with such limited upside. And taxpayers do too, shoveling billions of dollars into the pockets and purses of investors and businesses owners while we know full well it’s not working.
But there’s no reason businesses have to pay for that too.
Hiring managers have options and it’s worth remembering that not all college degrees are equal because not all colleges are equal because not all college accreditors are equal. Some are legit, some are considerably less so. It’s important to check not just whether a particular applicant earned a degree but whether the school that awarded it is an ACICS school, or recently was, and decide accordingly.
Source: Why HR Managers Need To Know About ACICS
By Derek Newton, Contributor
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