The Clinton Herald, Clinton, Iowa

Local Schools

July 10, 2012

Ashford University denied accreditation

School officials to reapply in December

CLINTON — Ashford University officials announced Monday the for-profit university was denied initial accreditation by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges.

WASC is one of seven regional accrediting commissions, accrediting schools in California, Hawaii and the U.S. Pacific Islands.

While the WASC acknowledged, in the letter explaining the denial, the “substantial investment” Ashford made to the Clinton campus, it noted several deficiencies for accreditation in its region.  

Among the items that did not meet accreditation standards were student retention and completion methods including tracking student progress, a sufficient core of full-time faculty members, and an effective system for assuring and monitoring student learning and academic rigor.

Ashford is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission and a member of the HLC’s North Central Association through 2015.  The HLC is the accrediting body for a 19-state region, including Iowa.

Ashford was seeking the WASC accreditation because the primary focus of its activities have shifted from Iowa to California since it was accredited by the HLC in 2006. Ashford’s online enrollment has increased tenfold in recent years, with most of its students being served out of the San Diego office, according to the background information provided by the WASC.

Ashford officials have until Dec. 1 to prove it meets the “substantial presence” requirement set forth by the HLC in order to maintain its accreditation.

During a meeting to discuss the demolition of the former Clinton Country Club building last month, Ashford Vice President John Ballheim revealed that the university has no current plans to expand its presence in Clinton.

If Ashford does not meet the standard it could potentially have its HLC accreditation revoked. Losing accreditation altogether would have a substantial negative impact on the for-profit college including the loss of federal funding.

Ashford’s parent company, Bridgepoint Education, shared the news of the denial Monday, causing its stocks to tumble by more than 33 percent. Bridgepoint stocks have been down 47 percent over the past 12 months, despite an increase in enrollment.

Other for-profit colleges have seen similar drops in stock prices.  DeVry stocks are down 50 percent over the past 12 months, while Apollo Group has seen a 27.8 percent decrease over the same time period.

Ashford officials plan to appeal the commission’s decision and reapply for accreditation as permitted by WASC procedures. The accreditation would not be granted until June of 2013.

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