On December 12, 2016, the U.S. Department of Education announced that it no longer recognizes the Accrediting Council for Independent Colleges and Schools (ACICS) as an accrediting agency. This decision to no longer recognize ACICS will affect more than 16,000 international students attending nearly 130 SEVP-certified schools and programs. While the majority of SEVP-certified schools are not required to obtain accreditation and can provide evidence in lieu of accreditation, there are two instances when SEVP-certified schools must be accredited:
- English as a Second Language (ESL) programs; and,
- F-1 students applying for a 24-month Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) Optional Practical Training (OPT) extension.
The Department of Education has issued an 18-month timeline for schools and students affected. Schools must either obtain accreditation from a different Department of Education-recognized accrediting agency and update their Form I-17 or they will receive a notification to remove the ESL program from their Form I-17 petition. Affected students enrolled in a STEM degree should contact their school to find out if they plan to obtain accreditation elsewhere or should consider transferring if they wish to pursue an OPT STEM extension in the future. For more information, please visit SEVP's website.