Though the decision on ACICS is still pending, and is likely many months away from a final resolution, the potential effects of what it would mean for institutions – and students – are pretty far reaching.
We sat down with our friend and colleague (and State Authorization expert) Sharyl Thompson of HER Consulting to get her thoughts on what could happen if ACICS loses its federal recognition as a national accreditor.
Cyanna: We know there are a lot of areas that the ACICS decision may affect, but let’s talk about State Authorization specifically.
Thompson: Yes, definitely. If ACICS loses its recognition it could have a significant impact on both SARA institutions and non-SARA institutions.
Cyanna: Start with non-SARA institutions. What does it mean for them?
Thompson: Well, right now there are ten non-SARA states, including California and Florida. Institutions that are conducting certain activities in these states are subject to their authorization regulations. Most of the time, in order to get authorization, states require institutions to be accredited by a Department of Education approved accreditor.
Cyanna: And if ACICS is no longer a DOE approved accreditor?
Thompson: Exactly. The institutions no longer meet state requirements for authorization, and therefore may be banned from operating there. So any of the 200+ ACICS accredited schools could lose authorization in those ten states.
Cyanna: What about SARA institutions?
Thompson: It’s a similar story. SARA only allows institutions to participate if they’re accredited by — you guessed it — an accreditor recognized by the Department of Education. If ACICS is no longer an approved accreditor, these institutions could lose their SARA institution status.
Thompson: Right. And that’s just State Authorization. Any number of things are dependent on being accredited by a DOE recognized accreditor — like some programmatic accreditations, acceptance of transfer credits, professional licensing — the list goes on.
You know, the schools will obviously be affected, but really the ones who will suffer from this are students and graduates. And not a small number either. ACICS institutions enroll more than 800,000 students. In the worst case scenario, they may have put in their time (and their money) at an ACICS institution, only to be unable to get a professional license or have transfer credits recognized at the end of their education. What will happen to them then? They have to start their education all over again?
Cyanna: What is your advice to institutions, so that they can avoid these kinds of issues and protect their students?
Thompson: I would start working on getting a new accreditation right now*. Don’t wait. Accreditation is an 18-24 month process, and you want to be ahead of the game if ACICS loses its status. If things turn out differently, and ACICS continues to be recognized by the DOE, you can always stop your alternative accreditation process. Another factor to consider is all the other institutions who will need a new accreditor. Accrediting agencies are going to be flooded with applications. You want yours to be at the top of the stack.
*See IFAP’s Guidance for Schools Seeking New Accreditation here for additional info.
Thanks to Sharyl Thompson for taking the time to talk with us. Learn more about Sharyl or contact her directly at her site: HERConsultingLLC.com. And look for our first State Authorization course by Sharyl to be released later this month.