June 23, 2016
For Immediate Release
Contact: Dominic Slowey
Veterans Service Organizations and Student Veterans Offer Testimony, Urge De-Authorization of Dysfunctional College Accreditation Agency
ACICS’s multiple failures have allowed predatory for-profit colleges to loot veterans’ G.I. Bill funds
Washington, D.C. – Veterans Education Success, education experts, and consumer advocates – joined by several individual student veterans – today testified before the National Advisory Committee on Institutional Quality and Integrity (NACIQI), asking them to rescind the accrediting authority of the Accrediting Council for Independent Colleges & Schools (ACICS). Recent research by two national organizations has concluded that many of the very worst for-profit schools – among the “bad actors” that President Obama has warned about – are all accredited by one single accreditor: ACICS.
“Accreditation is intended to be an indication of quality but it is clear that ACICS has failed this mission. Veterans are especially at risk, because the Department of Veterans Affairs relies on accreditation for GI Bill approval,” said Sara Collins, legal services director for Veterans Education Success “When veterans’ hard-earned G.I. Bill funds are wasted at a school that misrepresented itself, they cannot be reinstated. We all came here today to implore NACIQI to hold ACICS accountable and immediately withdraw its authorization.”
Testimony today comes amid growing scrutiny about the effectiveness of school accrediting agencies, ACICS in particular, as responsible gatekeepers of federal student aid. Even the Department of Education recommended ACICS be stripped of its authority. Previously, nine veterans’ services organizations sent a letter to NACIQI pointing out ACICS’s failures to protect student veterans from predatory for-profits; Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) publicly rebuked the agency for its “negligent oversight”; and the Center for American Progress and ProPublica found ACICS-accredited institutions had the highest borrowing rates of any national accreditor, as well as higher average debt and lower completion rates.
Veterans at ACICS-accredited schools report that the “education” they received was unacceptably poor, with fake teachers, no real classes, rampant cheating, and shoddy course materials.
When Matthew Mitchell, a military vet from Baton Rouge, Louisiana enrolled in Brown Mackie, he was told its nursing program was accredited and that he would be eligible to work at the VA — neither of which was true. The school also promised it would pay for his nursing licensure exams – only to rescind the offer, citing a “policy change.”
“The total cost for an associate’s degree in nursing from a horrible school like Brown Mackie was almost $50,000,” he said. “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 benefits, that seems unlikely.”
Howard Toller, a veteran from Garner, North Carolina had a similar issue with the quality of his education at ITT Technical Institute where he earned an associate’s degree in computer networking service.
“The teachers were subpar. I was given passing grades even though I had no understanding of the curriculum,” he said. “I was promised a world-class education and got nothing. I earned an associate’s degree but no employers seem to recognize a degree from this school as legitimate.”
Both of these schools and so many others in the “worst” category have been consistently accredited by ACICS, which advocates say is morally unacceptable.
“ACICS’s record demonstrates that it has failed – time and again – to protect students from these low-grade educational institutions with a history of misleading students – especially our veterans,” said Walter Ochinko, policy director for Veterans Education Success. “We call upon NACIQI to strip this dysfunctional agency of its power and hold our veterans’ education experiences to a much higher standard. They deserve better.”
About Veterans Education Success
Veterans Education Success (VES) is a veteran advocacy organization whose mission is to advance higher education success for veterans, servicemembers, and military-connected students and to defend the integrity and promise of the GI Bill and other federal education programs for veterans and servicemembers. VES offers policy expertise to policymakers and conducts non-partisan research on issues of concern to student veterans, including student outcomes and debt levels. VES also offers free legal services, advice, and college and career counseling to servicemembers, veterans, their survivors, and families using federal education benefits, and helps veterans participate in their democracy by engaging with their Congressional representatives. Additional information is available at www.vetsedsuccess.org.