Reversing its earlier position, the Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP) has announced that schools accredited by the Accrediting Council for Independent Colleges and Schools (ACICS) will not have 18-months to obtain accreditation from another accreditor recognized by the US Department of Education to maintain SEVP certification. The action will immediately impact English-language programs, which must cease enrolling new F-1 students and will lose SEVP approval if institutions offering such programs are not able to demonstrate they have accreditation from a Department of Education-recognized accreditor by April 24, 2017. For all other programs, affected schools must either secure alternative accreditation or demonstrate that credits from each certified program are fully accepted by three other institutions that are accredited by a federally-recognized accrediting agency by that date.

When the Department of Education first announced in December 2016 that it would no longer recognize ACICS as an accrediting agency, SEVP issued a statement that it would “follow the Department of Education’s timeline for schools and students affected by ACICS’s loss of recognition as an accreditor.” SEVP went on to expressly state that “schools accredited by ACICS have 18 months to find a different accreditor for their programs.”

SEVP recently announced that it has “updated its previous guidance,” reversing its position and issuing new guidance, and has started issuing notices to ACICS accredited schools with a deadline to demonstrate they meet SEVP’s accreditation requirements. All schools that are currently accredited by ACICS have until the due date on the SEVP notice to inform SEVP that the school has found a new federally-recognized accreditor or can provide SEVP with evidence that their credits are accepted unconditionally by three other institutions. Note that for continued certification to enroll SEVP students in English-language training programs the institution must secure alternative accreditation.

SEVP is staying with its earlier policy that F-1 and M-1 students currently enrolled at ACICS schools will have 18 months to finish their current programs, regardless of whether the institution can meet the accreditation or alternative evidence requirements.

The full updated SEVP announcement  is at on the ICE website, and an archived version of the SEVP website with its previous language regarding the grace period available for reference can be found here.

We will provide more information as it becomes available.

Mike Goldstein has been a pioneer in the development of new and more effective and efficient approaches to education in general and eLearning in particular through the creation of innovative approaches to combining the resources and interests of the various sectors of the education, technology, financial and governmental communities.

Paul Thompson counsels schools and technology companies that provide services to schools on regulatory challenges in the education sector.

Jay Vaughan is chair of Cooley’s education practice group and a former manager with an accrediting agency. Jay assists organizations to understand accreditation, as well as state and federal laws regulating the field of postsecondary education, and represents clients in hearings before state administrative agencies, accreditors and the DOE.

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