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Attorney General Kamala D. Harris Urges the Department of Education To Revoke Federal Recognition of Accrediting Agency Overseeing For-Profit Schools That Defrauded Students

Thursday, June 2, 2016
Contact: (415) 703-5837, agpressoffice@doj.ca.gov

LOS ANGELES – Attorney General Kamala D. Harris today sent a letter to the United States Department of Education, urging the Department to revoke federal recognition of the Accrediting Council for Independent Colleges and Schools’ (ACICS).  ACICS is a major accreditor of for-profit schools and was the accreditor for the now defunct Corinthian Colleges, Inc. (“Corinthian”).  While accredited by ACICS, Corinthian intentionally targeted low-income, vulnerable Californians through deceptive and false advertisements and aggressive marketing campaigns that misrepresented job placement rates and school programs.

“The predatory scheme devised by executives at Corinthian Colleges, Inc. was unconscionable. And despite enforcement actions by the California Department of Justice and the federal government against Corinthian, ACICS continued to accredit Corinthian, hurting thousands of students in the process,” said Attorney General Harris. “Students relied on Corinthian’s accreditation status, believing they were obtaining a high quality-education with real job prospects. The Department of Education should not renew ACICS’ federal recognition and protect students from harm by predatory, for-profit colleges.”

In issuing this letter, Attorney General Harris supports the 13 other state Attorneys General who voiced their concerns over the renewal of ACICS as an accreditation agency.  These Attorneys General noted their opposition in a letter that included a discussion of ACICS-related issues and concerns in their respective states, also noting the failure of ACICS to take appropriate action in response to public enforcement actions by states and federal agencies.

Today’s letter is Attorney General Harris’ latest effort to protect vulnerable students from fraud and predatory practices by dishonest institutions.  Yesterday, Attorney General Harris, 10 other Attorneys General, and the State of Hawaii, Office of Consumer Protection sent a letter to the Senate Armed Services Committee opposing an amendment that would weaken existing protections and would instead allow any college approved for military tuition benefits to have unrestricted access to recruit on military bases.  In March 2016, Attorney General Harris obtained a $1.1 billion judgment against Corinthian as a result of their predatory and unlawful practices that left tens of thousands of students with large amounts of debt and useless degrees. 

In February 2016, Attorney General Harris and 7 other Attorneys General sent a letter to the Secretary of Veterans Affairs urging greater protections for veterans affected by predatory school practices.  Also in February 2016, Attorney General released a statement and in March 2016 joined 8 other Attorneys General in a letter urging the Department of Education to adopt stronger regulations, including in “borrower defense to repayment,” to protect students misled by Corinthian and other predatory for-profit colleges.  In April 2015, Attorney General Harris and 8 other state Attorneys General sent a letter to the U.S. Department of Education urging immediate debt relief for the students who attended Heald College and other Corinthian Colleges, Inc. campuses.

In October 2013, Attorney General Kamala D. Harris led the charge against Corinthian Colleges, Inc. and its schools in California (Everest, Heald, and Wyotech colleges), seeking to put an end to abusive practices that left tens of thousands of students with useless degrees and tens of thousands of dollars in debt.

Attorney General Harris remains committed to protecting vulnerable students.  A copy of the letter is attached to the electronic version of this release at www.oag.ca.gov/news.

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