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Group that approved South Dakota college without students rebuked, may lose access to federal money

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A look at what used to be the homepage for Reagan National University, which listed its address in Sioux Falls, S.D. The web page prominently features the university's accreditation by the Accrediting Council for Independent Colleges & Schools.

A year after a USA Today Network investigation revealed an accredited university in South Dakota didn’t seem to have students or staff, a federal panel voted to strip the Accrediting Council for Independent Colleges and Schools of its federal recognition on Friday.

That recommendation could mean the end of the road for the troubled accreditor which had previously made headlines for its role in accrediting ITT Tech and Corinthian Colleges, two massive for-profit colleges that shutdown without much warning in the mid-2010s.

Accreditors operate independently of the federal government, but their approval by the Education Department allows them to decide which colleges can access federal money including student loans or Pell Grants. The decision, which was decided by a 11 to 1 vote, came after hours of discussion and reviews of hundreds of pages of documents reviewing the accreditor’s monitoring, or lack thereof, of colleges.

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