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Accreditation issues threaten Miller-Motte College's future

Updated: Sep. 11, 2017 at 5:24 PM EDT
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WILMINGTON, NC (WECT) - Miller-Motte College is having some serious issues with its accreditation and is no longer enrolling new students in some programs.

A "notice to students and prospective students" recently posted on their homepage reads the Wilmington campus "has been placed on student achievement show-cause by their accreditor…due to consistent noncompliance with retention standards."

The Accrediting Council for Independent Colleges and Schools (ACICS) notes Miller-Motte's retention standards of 54 percent in 2015 and 56 percent in 2016.

The same notice says approval for the college's paralegal program has been withdrawn because of student retention issues, and the college's Criminal Justice Bachelor of Science program has been placed on "show cause" status for the same reason.

We reached out to a Miller-Motte for an explanation on why this happened and what this will mean for current students. Spokesman Chuck Vella provided a statement which reads in part:

"ACICS challenges its schools to meet or exceed their standards and has issued directives as noted on the Miller-Motte Wilmington website. Similar notices can be seen on ACICS accredited schools across the country.

Miller-Motte's administration and faculty work hard to encourage students to stay in school. In addition, Miller-Motte provides lifetime placement services to help graduates find employment in their fields of study.

Miller-Motte College Wilmington also pushes back on ACICS when it believes the school is meeting or exceeding the relevant standards. ACICS directives and notices are based upon prior years; they do not reflect achievement for the current year."

We also reached out to ACICS to see if they could explain the action. We are awaiting a return phone call.

In addition to the programs mentioned above, Miller-Motte Wilmington's I.T. Support Specialist and Security & Investigation Associate's Degree programs had already been ordered in December to "cease new enrollments" due to 3 consecutive years of student retention rates below 60 percent. Students currently enrolled in those programs are allowed to continue their studies.

News broke last week that Miller-Motte would stop enrolling new students at seven of its campuses across its multi-state system. According to published reports, Miller-Motte could not find a new accreditor for those campuses after the ACICS lost federal recognition.

A college spokesperson told WECT the Wilmington campus would not be affected by that decision.

Wilmington is the original Miller-Motte campus, founded in 1916 by Judge Leon Motte as a training center for court stenographers. It has since branched out to provide training in many other fields, with campuses in North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Georgia, Virginia and Mississippi.

According to the National Center for Education Statistics, annual tuition and fees are $10,595, with an additional $1,800 for books and supplies at Miller-Motte's Wilmington campus. They report an overall retention rate of 58 percent for full-time students and 11 for full-time students.

The retention rate in that report is defined as the percentage of students who began their studies in the Fall of 2015 and returned to continue their studies the following fall.

ACICS ran into problems last year, after a federal panel recommended shutting the accrediting agency down due to poor oversight of other institutions. The Department of Education then denied an appeal by ACICS to overturn a decision to cease and desist recognition of the agency.

Colleges must be accredited by a Department of Education approved accrediting agency to receive federal financial aid funding. A number of other schools that were previously accredited by ACICS have had to close as a result of ACICS losing federal recognition.

According to the Center for American Progress, a Washington DC based think tank that has researched this issue, the 200+ institutions that were overseen by the ACICS have by law 18 months to find a new accreditor. The center says Miller-Motte is now seeking accreditation by another agency, the Accrediting Council for Continuing Education and Training.

Nationwide, hundreds of thousands of students are affected by these accrediting changes. Center for American Progress's Ben Miller says that the real test for these schools seeking alternative accreditation is October 10.

"By that date, the 199 schools seeking accreditation elsewhere will have to show they had a site visit from a new agency—a sign that the accreditor is seriously considering accepting the institution. Those that do not will lose access to financial aid for new students and must submit a letter of credit—basically, a financial guarantee of a certain sum of money—to the Department of Education to cover expected costs if an institution closes," Miller wrote about the issue. "How many schools can meet the visit requirement will provide a more telling picture of what's going to happen to these institutions."

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