On Dec. 12, 2016, the U.S. Department of Education announced that it no longer recognizes the Accrediting Council for Independent Colleges and Schools (ACICS) as a gateway to Federal financial aid. However, ACICS is still recognized by the Council of Higher Education Accreditors (CHEA).
Because this action was only directed toward ACICS performance, the Department provided 18 months for all ACICS schools to transfer to another accreditor. The action by the Department did not sanction or penalize any ACICS school, including Stratford University.
ACICS lost its certification because ACICS Board of Directors failed to enforce standards of governance for a few very large, publicly-traded institutions (CEC, Corinthian, ITT).
The Department felt their only option was to decertify ACICS, even though many innocent schools, including Stratford University, would be affected. That is why the Department deemed all ACICS institutions as being “accredited by a recognized accreditation agency during the 18-month transition period.”
Four years ago, Stratford University decided that it had outgrown ACICS. Since that time, Stratford decided to seek regional accreditation. Stratford submitted the application to the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC) on October 11, 2016, months before the ACICS decertification. Stratford will simply continue on the path we started years ago.
The Veterans Administration will honor the same 18-month transition period that has been granted by the USDOE. Since Stratford will continue to be “deemed as accredited by a recognized accreditation agency” during that period, all benefits will continue (including VA benefits, TA, BAH) as long as Stratford continues pursuit of an alternate accreditor.
For some reason SEVIS did not honor the 18-month period that had been provided by USDE. Stratford and its legal counsel are presently in dialogue with SEVIS to address this issue. The bottom line is that presently SEVIS does not recognize Stratford as an accredited school through July 2018, and international students will not quality for OPT STEM extension. Once Stratford obtains anticipated accreditation from ACCSC and SACSCOC, this restriction will be lifted. Stratford anticipates further clarification from SEVIS soon.
Nevertheless, International students can still get OPT CPT, and student visas.
None of these restrictions affect the Stratford ESL program.
Stratford University has received provisional certification from USDOE which provides access to Federal financial aid programs during the 18-month transition period. Therefore Federal financial aid will continue so long as Stratford pursues an alternative accreditor and continues to meet ACICS standards.
Planned graduation dates will not be affected. Since the USDOE “deemed Stratford University to be accredited by a recognized accreditation agency” during the 18-month transition period, current students will be able to complete their program without disruption. Stratford will continue to be recognized by all relevant agencies, including SEVP, Veterans Administration, and USDOE.
All degrees awarded by Stratford University in the past will continue to be honored. Their status will be based on the recognition status of ACICS at the time the degree was awarded. All students, who graduate during the transition period, will have degrees with the same level of recognition. When Stratford University transitions to a new accreditor, all Stratford University degrees will be associated with the new accreditor.