Court Loss For An Accreditor
Career College Central summary:
A federal judge took the unusual step last week of blocking an accrediting agency's decision to strip an institution's accreditation, and the highly unusual (if not unprecedented) step of fining the agency for its action. The ruling by the federal judge in Virginia came in a case involving a Missouri massage school, and so has remained under the radar. But the approach the judge used in deciding the case could apply to any accreditor's review of any college, and so raises issues much more broadly for higher education quality assurance agencies, at a time when they are under broad political attack, too.
Professional Massage Training Center sued the Accrediting Commission of Career Schools and Colleges in August 2012, after the agency revoked the school's accreditation, citing concerns about the continuity of its management, the adequacy of its learning resources, and its verification of faculty qualifications. The lawsuit argued that the agency denied the massage school due process; the court had granted a preliminary injunction in September 2012 blocking the denial of accreditation, but this was the judge's first full ruling on the merits of the case.
In his ruling, Judge Liam O'Grady, of the Eastern District of Virginia, acknowledged that in line with federal court precedent, judges owe "great deference" to the decisions of accrediting agencies, as they do to administrative decisions of federal agencies. (He also stated that the standard the school must meet for winning — that the agency's decision was "arbitrary and unreasonable" — is "a high bar.")
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