SARA and ACICS-accredited Institutions: Further Developments

Updated by on Tue, 08/13/2019 - 10:24

Submitted by vbrieske on Thu, 03/29/2018 - 14:39

In January of 2017, NC-SARA released the following blog post and related letter:

ACICS (the Accrediting Council for Independent Colleges and Schools) is a national accrediting body that has been in the news for the well-publicized failures of some of the institutions it has accredited and accusations of lax accrediting practices.

The U.S. Department of Education has removed ACICS from its list of "recognized" accreditors, but a lawsuit over that action is pending in the courts. In the meantime, ACICS-accredited schools have 18 months to obtain accreditation by another recognized accreditor in order to maintain the eligibility of their students to participate in federal financial aid programs.

We've been asked how these issues affect SARA eligibility for ACICS-accredited institutions. Click HERE for our response.

Update – March 30, 2018
On March 23, 2018 the United States District Court for the District of Columbia, over the signature of Reggie B. Walton, United States District Judge, concluded that “ the Secretary (ed. – Former Secretary of Education John B. King) violated the APA (NC-SARA, ed. – Administrative Procedures Act) by failing to consider the Accrediting Council’s Part II submission and evidence of its placement verification and data integrity programs and procedures, and finds that the proper remedy for these violations is to remand this case to the Secretary (NC-SARA, ed. – current Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos) for consideration of this evidence.” (Judge Walton’s ruling is available at:

As a result of that ruling, ACICS’ designation as a U.S. Department of Education recognized accreditor continues until such time as the Department conducts a new review and the Secretary makes a new determination.

SARA institutions must be accredited by an accrediting body recognized by the U.S. Department of Education. Under Secretary King’s action, ACICS-accredited institutions had 18 months from the date of his decision (December 12, 2016) to obtain accreditation by a recognized accreditor (other than ACICS) or lose the ability to participate in federal Title IV student assistance programs. (At the time of that ruling, only a dozen or so SARA institutions were accredited by ACICS, and all expressed their intent to obtain alternate accreditation.)

Since the Court’s ruling effectively extends ACICS’ status as a recognized accreditor, any SARA institutions still accredited by ACICS and not having obtained alternate accreditation by another recognized accreditor continue to satisfy the accreditation requirements of SARA pending further U.S. Department of Education review and action.

Marshall A. Hill
Executive Director, NC-SARA