COURTHOUSE NEWS SERVICE: Shuttered Online School Sues Accreditor

Career College Central Summary:

  • An online junior college sued the accrediting commission that shut it down two years ago, claiming the Higher Learning Commission closed it because of a "political agenda."
  • Ivy Bridge University fka Ivy Bridge College sued the Illinois-based Higher Learning Commission on May 14 in Federal Court.
  • It claims the commission shut it down because of a politically motivated reaction to growing disfavor with online schools.
  • Ivy Bridge claims that despite its "incredible success," it was "forced out of business by defendant HLC because Ivy Bridge did not fit within HLC's political agenda."
  • Ivy Bridge was founded in 2008 in a joint venture between Tiffin University, a small private school in Ohio, and Silicon-Valley based technology company Altius Education. It calls itself an educational experiment to offer low-income, working adults access to affordable, quality education. With Tiffin's backing, students could earn an associate's degree online that they could use to transfer to a four-year university
  • Using Altius' software platform Helix, Ivy Bridge says, it initially enjoyed great success. In 2012, it boasted a reported enrollment of 2,000 students and Altius received a $300,000 grant from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to put all of Ivy Bridge's courses on the Helix online portal.
  • But in 2013, classes were discontinued after Higher Learning Commission ordered a stop to the Ivy Bridge program, amid public and legislative outcry over money-grubbing for-profit junior colleges.
  • Ivy Bridge claims the commission grew nervous at the program's plans to seek its own accreditation.
  • "HLC had already accredited many of the for-profit universities that sprung from the failing traditional schools. It could not simply revoke that accreditation. Instead, it had to find a new target to show that it could 'get tough.' That is where Ivy Bridge came in. It was at the wrong place at the wrong time," the complaint states.
  • Though the commission's 10-year review of Tiffin in 2010 offered glowing praise for the Ivy Bridge program, a 2013 report from the commission said Ivy Bridge failed to meet accreditation standards, particularly because of its allegedly poor academic performance and Tiffin's oversight failures.

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