The U.S. Department of Education has terminated federal recognition of the Accrediting Council for Independent Colleges and Schools (ACICS) as a national accrediting agency. The loss of recognition will affect certain immigration beneficiaries because many immigration benefits are available only in cases in which a beneficiary has a degree from, or is currently enrolled in, a nationally accredited institution.
The main groups of beneficiaries that the loss of recognition will affect include the following:
Initial OPT will still be available at ACICS-accredited institutions despite the loss of accreditation. A grant of initial OPT requires only that an institution be SEVP-certified.
The loss of recognition is not a sudden surprise. Rather, the August 19, 2022, decision was the culmination of a six-year-long process. The U.S. Department of Education first announced its decision to stop recognizing ACICS in 2016. What followed was a long string of lawsuits, appeals, and finally, a temporary reinstatement under the past administration. The uncertainty about the future recognition of the ACICS accreditation led to a drop in ACICS membership as institutions looked elsewhere for accreditation. At the beginning of 2016, before the U.S. Department of Education announced the decision to cease recognition, ACICS listed 927 U.S. member institutions on their annual report. A year later, that number dropped to 571. Today, the ACICS member directory contains only forty-five U.S. institutions with a combined total enrollment of just under 5,000 students.
Even though the loss of accreditation can have serious immigration-based consequences for the students of an institution, the effects of the August 19, 2022, decision are limited only to the forty-five ACICS-accredited institutions that remain accredited by the agency as of November 2022.
The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.
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