Release of the 2018 Draft Staff Report


Statement from Michelle Edwards, President of ACICS on the Release of the 2018 Draft Staff Report

In response to the recent release by the U.S. Department of Education of a March 2018 Draft Staff Report regarding ACICS recognition, it is important to understand that the Draft Staff Report was exactly that – a draft report – prepared as a preliminary review of an Initial Petition for recognition filed by ACICS in 2017. The draft report was not intended to, and did not, reach a final determination on whether ACICS was or was not compliant with any recognition criteria. Consistent with the traditional process at the Department, the Draft Staff Report represented the beginning of an iterative process between an accreditor and the Department, not the final conclusion.

As per the normal course with review of any Initial Petition, the Department expected ACICS to respond to the draft report observations by supplying additional information to demonstrate compliance with regulatory criteria. That is why a Department representative stated publicly that the draft was pre-decisional and an incomplete analysis. ACICS was working to supply the necessary additional information when the process was halted per an April 2018 Order of Secretary DeVos. Thus, ACICS never had the opportunity to complete its response to the Draft Staff Report and submit additional information that would demonstrate full compliance in the context of the Initial Petition.

Some have made public statements conflating the processes for an Initial Petition with the process for continued recognition in such a way as to potentially mislead the public about the significance of the Draft Report to the current review process. Under the standard of review for Initial Petitions, the staff recommends denial if there is even one non-compliant criteria identified in a draft report, with the expectation that the agency will supply additional information to resolve concerns before a Final Report and recommendation is issued. The Department’s review of continued recognition applies a different standard – an agency continues to be recognized if it can show that any criteria deficiencies can be addressed within 12 months. ACICS is currently subject to this latter standard as a recognized agency.

Moreover, it is important to note that the Draft Staff Report contains numerous flaws. For example:

  • Staff requested an explanation as to why ACICS allowed waiver of international students in placement rate calculations and asked for more information as to how ACICS schools calculate placement rates for foreign students. However, foreign student visa status prohibits international students from working in the United States in most cases;
  • Staff alleged deficient evidence of consideration of placement and licensing rate data by ACICS staff when the Campus Accountability Reports submitted by ACICS (and explained to Department staff during their in person visit of the agency) showed clear evidence of a process for review of that data in school evaluations;
  • Staff improperly undercut the value of the public and academic experience among ACICS leadership, staff and volunteers where there was any affiliation past or current with ACICS accredited schools. There is no legal basis for rejecting the value of public and academic experience based on past or current affiliation with the agency under review; and
  • Staff rejected the wide acceptance of ACICS as an accrediting agency despite its years of functioning as a recognized agency and acceptance of its accrediting decision by states, licensing boards, associations, practitioners, employers, and even the courts, as well as the continued occupational licensing of ACICS school graduates. The new high bar the Department staff set for wide acceptance was amorphous and unreasonable.
On May 30, ACICS submitted additional information to the Department. Although not required to, ACICS took that opportunity to respond directly to questions and issues raised in the Draft Staff Report.
 Michelle Edwards, ACICS President, issued the following statement regarding the Draft Staff Report:
“To characterize the Draft Staff Report as the final word on the Department’s recognition of ACICS or to argue that ACICS’s current recognition status is somehow invalid based on information in that Draft Staff Report is to misunderstand the nature of the Department’s deliberative process and to mislead the public about its significance.

We provided additional materials that, we believe, clearly demonstrate our compliance with recognition standards. Based on the current continued recognition process underway, we look forward to the Department completing its review in an efficient and constructive manner.”