Betsy DeVos orders probe after USA TODAY finds college evidently without faculty, students
This is DeVos’s response to a story that broke a few days ago. The accrediting agency, with a long history of shady accreditations to its name and that DaVos personally rescued, was caught accrediting a school that basically exists in name only.
Evidently she’s been getting coaching from Susan Collins who often describes herself as “concerned” when faced with a Republican scandal, but DaVos has upped the ante and (gasp!) is more than “concerned,” she’s “troubled.” However, she hasn’t provided any details about the investigation.
The U.S. Department of Education launched an investigation after a USA TODAY report showed an accredited college apparently had no faculty or students.
Reagan National University, the college investigated by USA TODAY, was approved by the Accrediting Council for Independent Colleges & Schools. It has a history of approving several for-profit universities that suddenly closed, such as ITT Tech and Corinthian Colleges in the mid-2010s. The accreditor still operates mainly because it was saved by the Education Department in 2018 under Secretary Betsy DeVos.
Thursday, DeVos told a congressional committee she was “troubled” by USA TODAY’s report and she launched an investigation as a result.
“I was not happy to read that,” DeVos said of the USA TODAY story. “We have an investigation launched, and we’re on it.”
Rep. Rosa DeLauro, D-Conn., questioned DeVos about accreditor ACICS Thursday during a House appropriations subcommittee hearing on the Department of Education’s 2021 budget request.
The Education Department kicked off its investigation on Monday with a letter sent to ACICS, which was obtained by USA TODAY.
“The article includes information that ACICS accredited RNU, which is alleged, based on research conducted by the journalists, to not be operational,” wrote Herman Bounds, director of the department’s accreditation group, referencing the USA TODAY investigation. “These allegations raise questions as to the effectiveness of the agency’s evaluation and monitoring of its applicant and membership institutions.”
… An investigation by USA TODAY and the Argus Leader in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, found no evidence of students, faculty members or classrooms at Reagan National University early this year, even though it was accredited by ACICS.
Attempts to interview anyone associated with the university were unsuccessful. A reporter who visited the college’s listed addresses in Sioux Falls found only locked doors or empty rooms.
ACICS has a complicated history. Under President Barack Obama, the Education Department moved to strip the agency of its accrediting power in 2016.
After a federal court decision, DeVos and President Donald Trump’s administration reinstated the accrediting agency in 2018. As recently as November, the department questioned the agency’s financial health and its vetting process.
DeVos has made it one of her priorities to roll back some of the federal regulations around accreditation.