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What to do if your school loses accreditation

If you are like millions of Americans, you rely on federal student loans and grants to fund your higher education. To be able to receive this financial assistance, you must attend a school that is recognized as an accredited institution by the U.S. Department of Education. To achieve this, colleges and universities must be approved by an accrediting agency.

What happens if the Department of Education stops recognizing an accrediting agency? And how does that affect institutions that have been accredited by that agency, as well as their students?

Check your school's accrediting agency

You probably haven't even considered who granted your school its accreditation. In fact, you most likely do not know how to even check for that information. Most schools will post their accrediting agency on their promotional materials, so that is a good place to start your search. If you are unable to find that information, you can always ask your school's admissions office.

Although a loss of status as an accrediting agency is rare, a recent case has occurred involving the Accrediting Council for Independent Colleges and Schools (ACICS). This current situation affects more than 200 institutions and thousands of students across the country. To find out if your school was accredited by ACICS, you can search its online database.

If your school loses its accreditation

The most important thing to do after your school loses accreditation is not to panic. The Department of Education gives institutions 18 months to obtain approval from another accrediting agency before accreditation is lost.

 Once a school officially loses accreditation, current students will no longer be eligible for federal student loan and financial aid programs. In this situation, affected students will need to transfer to an accredited institution if they want to continue to receive financial assistance. Graduates from that institution will not be affected.

If your school closes

In certain situations, an institution may close after losing accreditation. If your school closes before you can complete your degree or certificate, you have options. First, you can transfer your credits to another accredited institution. Your current school should have plans in place to assist with this type of transfer.

Your second option is to see if you are eligible for a discharge of your federal student loans. This releases you from any obligation to repay the amount of federal funding you used to attend this institution. Note that this only applies in the case of a school closing, not losing accreditation.

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