With accrediting agency under scrutiny, DuBois Business College may seek new accreditor

DuBois Business College is awaiting the fate of its accrediting agency, which is under scrutiny from the U.S. Department of Education for lack of oversight and efficacy from its institutions.

According to a 2015 ProPublica report, four-year colleges accredited by the Accrediting Council for Independent Colleges and Schools graduated 35 percent of their students, the lowest rate among national accrediting agencies.

By contrast, about 61 percent of students at four-year public schools and 71.5 percent at private institutions graduated within six years, according to a National Student Clearinghouse Research Center study.

The low graduation rates were part of a larger framework of institutional failure, the Department of Education outlined in a report released in June. In the report, the department recommended that ACICS lose its recognition as an accrediting body. Other issues included clarifying “misrepresentations to prospective students” and “abusive recruiting,” and ensuring its accrediting process relies on accurate information.

Earlier in June, Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., released a report calling to hold ACICS accountable for its “long record of failure.” In the report, Warren outlined a pattern of ineptitude, citing poor post-enrollment earnings and high student debt and loan default rates.

For DuBois Business College, which has a location in Philipsburg, the news puts the 131-year-old institution at a precarious inflection point. President Jackie Syktich told WJAC-TV on Tuesday that the school will remain open in the event ACICS loses its authority.

According to the department, a decision is not immediate — only a recommendation has been made. The deliberation and appeal process may take more than 18 months, the amount of time DuBois Business College and other ACICS-accredited schools will have to seek another agency.

For current students, the intervening months allow for a relative grace period in which to graduate or transfer. Syktich said she feels confident the college will be able find another accreditor should ACICS lose its former purview.

For-profit schools rely heavily upon federal aid funded by taxpayer dollars. Without accreditation, eligibility dries up and students who use federal loans or grants would have to transfer. The school would be required to apprise students of their options, according to the department.

Besides DuBois and Philipsburg, DuBois Business College also has campuses in Huntingdon and Oil City. The school opened its Philipsburg location in 2014 and has added additional programs of study in recent years, Syktich said.

“If something were to happen with ACICS, we would have 18 months to get accreditation through another accreditor,” Syktich said. “I feel confident with that.”

DuBois Business College offers eight associate degree programs and three diploma programs. According to an ACICS report, the college averaged an 87 percent placement rate and about an 80 percent retention rate among its Huntingdon, Oil City and main campuses last year.

ACICS defines “placement” based upon three broad criteria: job titles, required use of skills and the benefit of the training.

Roger Van Scyoc: 814-231-4698, @rogervanscy