THE PROGRESSIVE PULSE: Who accredits the for-profit colleges that scam students?

Career College Central Summary:

  • In case you missed it, I have a story on our main site today that takes a look at how the now-defunct for-profit Corinthian Colleges sold many students up a creek, including some North Carolina veterans who are saddled with big debts and worthless degrees and coursework.
  • In response to the story, one reader questioned on our Facebook page: Who accredited this scam?
  • That’s a great question.
  • So—when it comes to accrediting for-profit career colleges like Corinthian, here’s what I have learned.
  • Accrediting agencies that approve for-profit colleges also receive money from the very schools they are supposed to be holding accountable.
  • You read that correctly. The two national accrediting agencies that approved Corinthian schools—the Accrediting Commission for Career Schools and Colleges (ACCSC) and the Accrediting Council for Independent Colleges and Schools (ACICS)—each receive their funding in the form of fees from the schools they accredit.
  • At a congressional hearing in 2013, Kevin Carey of the New America Foundation compared this arrangement to some of the practices that have taken place on Wall Street.
  • “This is like bond ratings firms giving AAA ratings to mortgage-backed securities sold by the same firms that pay their fees,” Kevin Carey, the director of education policy at the New America Foundation, said at the hearing. “It does not work out well in the long run.”
  • Accrediting agencies’ boards comprise executives from the schools that they monitor and approve.
  • According to The Huffington Post, Corinthian execs served on the boards of both ACCSC and ACICS.
  • And those boards comprise mostly industry executives. In 2013, eight out of 13 board members supervising ACCSC were for-profit execs and 10 out of 15 board members supervising ACICS were executives at for-profit colleges.
  • “The federal government is being played for a chump,” Sen. Richard Durbin (D-Ill.) told the Huffington Post in 2013. “The for-profit schools’ accreditation agencies are guilty of some of the worst conflicts of interest. They are part of the same industry, and they pat one another’s backs and rub each other’s bellies while students and the taxpayers get cheated.”

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