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DeVos Allowed Group to Accredit College with ‘No Students, No Faculty, and No Classrooms’


Led by Secretary Betsy DeVos, the U.S. Department of Education in 2018 revived a Washington, D.C. accrediting agency, just two years after it was shut down by President Barack Obama’s administration. Now, the Accrediting Council for Independent Colleges and Schools (ACICS) is back to determining the viability of higher education institutions, and has reportedly approved Reagan National University, a college which doesn’t appear to exist at all.

The ACICS was shut down because it had a history of “pervasive compliance problems,” and consistently approved questionable for-profit colleges that handed out worthless degrees and left students hundreds of thousands of dollars in debt such as Corinthian Colleges, FastTrain College, ITT Tech, and Brightwood College, according to a report from USA Today and The Argus Leader.

The move to revive the troubled accrediting agency was part of the Trump administration’s larger effort to reverse Obama-era regulations to prevent abuses at for-profit colleges.

“We need to get this right for our students, and we need to get this right for our institutions of higher education,” DeVos said at the time. “Once fully implemented, the current rules would unfairly and arbitrarily limit students’ ability to pursue certain types of higher-education and career-training programs.”

The news outlet contacted seven faculty members listed on the website of Reagan National University (RNU) in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, four of whom taught at entirely different colleges and said they had never worked at RNU, while many other listed educators were “entirely absent from the internet” lacking personal websites and social media profiles. Harold Harris, the University’s president according to its website–a role that typically serves as an institution’s public face–was similarly invisible.

Making matters stranger, the president of the university listed on the South Dakota business license was “Xuanhua Fan.”

Following USA Today’s multiple phone calls and inquiries, RNU apparently pulled its website offline. It currently only says that the site is “down for maintenance” and to “please check back again soon.”

RNU also doesn’t appear to have any classrooms or faculty offices.

“Twice, on Jan. 29 and Feb. 12, an Argus Leader reporter visited the listed addresses for Reagan National University,” the report stated.

RNU also has a placement rate of zero-percent, meaning none of its graduates appear to be employed. The details were bizarre:

In one location, the doors were locked and the office suite was dark. Both had signs bearing the school’s name. At another location, the suite was mostly empty, save for some insulation scattered on the floor and a shop vacuum. Workers were remodeling parts of the Reagan suite for a possible new tenant after the office space was listed for lease in August 2019. None of the workers knew anything about Reagan National University.

When reporters called the number listed on RNU’s website, someone answered the phone saying, “Reagan National University.” They said they were uninterested in an interview before promptly hanging up.

[image via Chris Kleponis-Pool and Getty Images]

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Jerry Lambe is a journalist at Law&Crime. He is a graduate of Georgetown University and New York Law School and previously worked in financial securities compliance and Civil Rights employment law.