Reagan National University was supposed to be a place of higher learning in Sioux Falls, South Dakota. But it was unclear how it awarded degrees. By all appearances, at present it has no students, no faculty and no classrooms.
An agency meant to serve as a gatekeeper for federal money gave the university approval to operate anyway.
The agency in question, the Accrediting Council for Independent Colleges & Schools, has a history of approving questionable colleges, with devastating consequences. It accredited ITT Tech, Corinthian Colleges and Brightwood College, massive for-profit universities whose sudden closures last decade left thousands of students without degrees and undermined the value of the education of those who did graduate. Those closures led President Barack Obama’s Education Department to strip ACICS’ powers in 2016.
But following a federal court decision, Education Secretary Betsy DeVos and President Donald Trump’s administration reinstated the accrediting agency. By that point, it already had lost dozens of colleges and their membership fees. It needed new members, and fast.