WASHINGTON – The Department of Education plans to review an accreditation agency that approved a college suspected of being involved in sex trafficking after a USA DAYS INVESTIGATION showed connections between massage schools and the illegal spas.
The American Academy of Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine remains accredited, meaning its students can take out federal student loans or Pell grants. That Accreditation Commission for Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine has approved the college’s ability to receive federal money.
This is despite the fact that the Minnesota Office of Higher Education last year found that Roseville, Minnesota, for-profit college had a “theme of prostitution and / or human trafficking.” The state agency quickly ordered the school to close or find a new owner. The college chose the latter and is preparing to begin its fall semester. Its new owner disputes the findings of the Minnesota regulators.
The news from the federal government pending inquiry came Wednesday at a meeting of an advisory committee that reviewed the accreditor.
The staff of the Ministry of Education had already recommended that the Agency retain its accreditation capacity for another year, while remedying some shortcomings in bureaucratic processes. The government did not mention the American Academy of Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine or its alleged links to human trafficking in its recommendation.
A majority of the Advisory Committee voted in favor of the proposed action of the Chamber. But five members of the group abstained. (The committee sends its recommendations to the Department of Education, but a senior official decides whether accreditors will retain their power.)
Some committee members had wanted to include more discussion of a report from the Seldin / Haring-Smith Foundation, a group whose work first highlighted the American Academy of Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine and other oversight issues at massage schools. And some committee members wondered why the accreditor had continued school approval.
“If there is one thing that calls for the death penalty for a school, it is human trafficking. So why not just kill the school? Asked committee member Robert Shireman, director of excellence in higher education at the Century Foundation.
The Department of Education is finalizing a letter asking the accreditor for more information about the situation, said Herman Bounds Jr., who heads the government’s accreditation work. The department could take further steps after its initial investigation, he said.
Mark McKenzie, executive director of the Accreditation Commission for Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine, said his agency was limited in what it could do about human trafficking in programs it approves.
Agencies like his do not have the same investigative powers that states have, he told the advisory committee. And, he said, the creditor acted as soon as the state of Minnesota informed them of the school.
Closing a college, McKenzie said, has far-reaching consequences. Still, the accreditor plans to review the college next week, he said.
USA TODAY survey results:The Feds cancels reinstated accreditation after the US TODAY finds apparently fake college
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