Testimony of James Haynes
Federal Policy Manager, Veterans Education Success
U.S. Department of Education National Advisory Council on Institutional Quality and Integrity (NACIQI)
Review of the Accrediting Council for Independent Colleges and Schools (ACICS)
March 4, 2021
Thank you for the opportunity to comment on ACICS’ fitness to serve as an accrediting agency. My name is James Haynes and I am the Federal Policy Manager at Veterans Education Success.
The bottom-line message I want to leave you with today is: “Too many veterans have been harmed under ACICS’ watch.”
The time has long passed to revoke ACICS’s status as an accreditor. For years, ACICS has failed to protect students and taxpayers from predatory schools, including schools pursued by law enforcement. Its inadequate oversight of schools continued after its 2018 reinstatement, harming countless students. Our organization has helped roughly 1,000 veterans from ACICS schools.
Consider the words of Brown Mackie student veteran Matthew Mitchell who testified to NACIQI in 2016:
“The education I received was substandard and a very few for-profit schools will accept transfers and allow me to continue my education, which will most likely force me to repeat courses. But since I have over $16,000 in loans and I’ve exhausted my GI Bill, that seems unlikely.”
Veterans organizations have consistently called for ACICS to be de-recognized, including a 2018 letter from 30 veterans organizations. Our research team analyzed student outcomes at about 100 schools still accredited by ACICS as of September 2018 and found:
- Seventy percent of students at ACICS-approved colleges earn no more than a high school graduate 6 years after enrolling.
- ACICS students are twice as likely as other students to have unmanageable debt.
- ACICS students face much worse outcomes now than ACICS students faced in 2016.
The 2018 abrupt closure of Education Corporation of America (ECA) and ACICS’s lack of due diligence with respect to Reagan National University are only the latest examples. In the eight years before it precipitously closed, ECA’s brands, including Virginia College and Brightwood College, received about $500 million in tuition and fee payments for GI Bill students. While ACICS revoked the chains’ accreditation just before it closed, it long ignored early warning signs including poor job placement and graduation rates, inadequate equipment and supplies, and high faculty turnover rates.
I will close with the testimony of LaChelle Griffin, a 21-year Army veteran. With only 90 days of clinicals remaining for her associate’s degree in surgical technology, she learned that Virginia College was closing. No school she contacted would accept her credits and she couldn’t afford to start over at a new school:
“I have no degree, no job, and not enough of my GI Bill left to pay for a degree. I have wasted two years of my life that I will never get back.”