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Letter to Dr. Belle S. Wheelan

Letter

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC

U.S. Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL) today called on the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools to audit all job placement rates reported by Education Management Corporation (EDMC), a for-profit college company that was recently featured in an ABC news report. The report highlighted a lawsuit against EDMC by a former employee which raises serious concerns about the validity of EDMC's reported job placement rates.

"While I appreciate the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS) commitment to educational quality at the schools it accredits, I am deeply concerned for the approximately 150,000 students attending schools owned by EDMC," wrote Durbin. "Students and families rely on accreditors for the seal of approval you provide. Given the baseless job placement numbers provided by one of EDMC's schools with SACS accreditation, the Council should re-evaluate current methodology, documentation and reporting requirements for job placement."

Durbin has long pushed for stricter accreditation standards of for-profit colleges and universities. Last year after Congressional hearings and media reports highlighted serious problems with for-profit colleges and universities, Durbin wrote to 60 accrediting agencies around the country asking for an explanation of the accreditation standards to better understand the role they play in holding colleges and universities to high academic standards.

In July 2012, the publicly-traded company Bridgepoint Education disclosed that the regional accreditor, Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC), had denied Ashford University in its bid for accreditation. WASC found that spending on student recruitment at Ashford University far outweighed the amount of money spent on student education. In a letter to Ashford University's second accreditor, Durbin urged the Higher Learning Commission to reconsider its approval of Ashford University's request for accreditation.

Text of the letter is below and attached:

November 27, 2012
Dr. Belle S. Wheelan
President
Southern Association of Colleges and Schools
1866 Southern Lane
Decatur, GA 30033
Dear Dr. Whelan:

The lawsuit highlighted in a recent ABC news report against the Education Management Corporation (EDMC) by a former EDMC employee raises serious concerns about the validity of EDMC's reported job placement rates. I urge you to carefully audit all job placement rates reported by EDMC. The recent investigative report released by the Senate Committee on Employment, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee further details unscrupulous practices used by for-profit colleges to comply with job placement requirements of the school's accreditor. While I appreciate the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS) commitment to educational quality at the schools it accredits, I am deeply concerned for the approximately 150,000 students attending schools owned by EDMC.

Students and families rely on accreditors for the seal of approval you provide. Given the baseless job placement numbers provided by one of EDMC's schools with SACS accreditation, the Council should re-evaluate current methodology, documentation and reporting requirements for job placement. I urge SACS to audit other schools owned by EDMC to ensure that all of EDMC's students are working with accurate information about their post-secondary education.

Many of us in Congress are working to make it easier for students and families to have good, clear information about their higher education choices. SACS can be an effective partner in this effort by taking further steps to ensure that EDMC's programs are appropriately accredited and to ensure meaningful job placement standards.

Sincerely,

Richard Durbin
US Senator


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