Washington, D.C. — Today, the U.S. Department of Education announced a series of executive actions to improve accreditors’ and the department’s oversight activities, as well as a series of of legislative proposals aimed at guiding congressional action to improve and reform accreditation. In September, the Center for American Progress released a new analysis that revealed troublingly high student loan default rates among colleges accredited by national accreditors, including the Accrediting Council for Independent Colleges and Schools, or ACICS—the largest accreditor for the now-defunct Corinthian Colleges.
CAP’s review of U.S. Department of Education data found that one out of every five borrowers at ACICS-accredited colleges defaults on their loans within three years of entering repayment, a mark that is 50 percent higher than the national average. That figure—known as the three-year cohort default rate, or CDR—is particularly troubling because students at ACICS-accredited colleges take out student loans at higher rates and in greater amounts than those at colleges accredited by other agencies. The analysis from CAP also shows that the issue of high default rates is not limited to colleges accredited by ACICS, which may suggest that larger structural flaws exist in the national accreditation space.
The data released by the department today further highlight the exceptionally poor performance of colleges accredited by ACICS. According to department data, 76 percent of institutions accredited by ACICS are in the bottom third of all schools nationally in terms of the percentage of borrowers who are repaying their loans after three years. Similarly, a majority of ACICS schools are in the bottom third in terms of the earnings of federally aided students 10 years after entering college and the percentage of federally aided students earning more than high school graduates six years after entering college. These are the worst combined marks of any regional or national accreditation agency.
In response to the department’s actions today, Ben Miller, Senior Director for Postsecondary Education at CAP, released the following statement:
It is good to see the Department of Education centralizing accreditation information all in one place—but transparency alone is not enough. Hopefully, the department uses the data released today to inform which accreditation agencies it allows to serve as the gatekeepers to federal financial aid.
The other actions announced today should result in greater protections for students and taxpayers. In particular, sharing more information between accreditors and the department should create a stronger feedback loop whereby accreditation actions quickly lead to other oversight activity from the Office of Federal Student Aid.
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