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January 24, 2017


Attorney General Madigan Intervenes in ACICS Case Over its Accreditation of For-profit Schools

Chicago — Attorney General Lisa Madigan today moved to intervene in a lawsuit to assure that federal recognition of a national accreditor of many of the worst schools in the for-profit industry remains revoked.

The Accrediting Council for Independent Colleges and Schools (ACICS) filed the lawsuit after the Department of Education terminated ACICS’s recognition as a national accreditor based on the organization’s failure to comply with a host of criteria, including failing to develop and implement student achievement standards that measure students’ success in their chosen field.

ACICS accredited many for-profit schools that engaged in fraudulent activity by churning out worthless degrees that left students without jobs in their field but saddled with mountains of debt. Among the for-profit schools that ACICS accredited were many Illinois schools, including Everest Colleges, Westwood College and ITT Technical Institute. ACICS continued to accredit these schools even as ample evidence of student harm piled up from multiple state and federal investigations. ACICS’s accreditation provided for-profit schools with access to federal student loans, helping fuel the schools’ expansive growth across the country and luring students to take out billions of dollars in student loans. ACICS currently accredits 16 schools in Illinois, encompassing 20 campuses across the state.

“ACICS gave legitimacy to for-profit schools that have left millions of students with useless degrees, astronomical levels of debt and poor job prospects,” Madigan said. “ACICS should not be allowed to accredit schools and give students the false impression that a school will credential them for a career.”

Attorney General Madigan is a national leader in investigating and enforcing consumer protection violations in the higher education field. Just last week, Madigan filed a lawsuit against Navient and its predecessor Sallie Mae for the companies’ mistreatment of student loan borrowers from start to finish – from originating student loans to servicing those loans and collecting on defaulted student loans. Madigan also has testified before Congress and urged the U.S. Department of Education to crack down on the many abuses and scams facing student borrowers.

In addition to today’s action, Madigan has repeatedly called on the U.S. Department of Education to immediately forgive federal loans of students who attended fraudulent for-profit schools. Madigan reached a $15 million settlement with Westwood College in 2015 that forgave private debt owed by students of Westwood’s criminal justice program. After resolving Madigan’s lawsuit, the college announced its closure. More than 3,600 former Westwood College students in Illinois received an average of more than $4,200 in relief under the settlement, in addition to the potential federal loan relief called for by Madigan.

Madigan’s investigation into Everest College, which was operated by Corinthian Colleges Inc., revealed widespread misrepresentations made to prospective students, supporting the Department of Education’s own findings of fraud. Madigan’s office has found that at least 3,300 and as many as 6,700 Illinois students are eligible for federal student loan relief under the Department’s findings. Madigan also reached a settlement with Education Management Corporation (EDMC), which operates five Illinois Institute of Art and Argosy University campuses in Illinois.

Madigan was also the first attorney general in the country to take action against a new industry of student loan debt relief scams, which seek out student loan borrowers who are desperate for help to avoid their loans and scam them into paying money to help with their debt. In reality, once these scams take upfront fees from borrowers, they do little work to help them with their payments.

Madigan created a free Student Loan Helpline to provide student borrowers with free resources about repayment options, avoiding default or to file a complaint about loan servicing at (800) 455-2456 (TTY: 1-800-964-3013). More information can also be found on her website.


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