The Education Writers Association announced ProPublica as a finalist for two National Awards for Education Reporting.
Our investigation of the Accrediting Council for Independent Colleges and Schools (ACICS), one of the nation’s largest accreditors of for-profit schools, is a finalist in the category of investigative reporting, medium staff. The series by Annie Waldman found that students at for-profit schools accredited by ACICS have the lowest graduation rates in the country and the highest amounts of student debt.
“Bravo to [ProPublica] for sticking with an issue that has affected millions of students in profound and negative ways,” said contest judges. “A lot has been written on for-profits, but the focus on the accreditation agency is new, fertile and interesting ground to cover.” After the story ran, the Education Department terminated the agency.
A collaboration with the New York Times, on New Jersey’s state student loan program, is a finalist for investigative reporting, large staff. Also by Waldman, the series uncovered that the state agency was pushing student loans with stringent rules, aggressive collections and few reprieves — even for borrowers who died. Prompted by Waldman’s reporting, Gov. Chris Christie signed into law a new requirement for the agency to forgive the debts of borrowers who die or become permanently disabled.
“The convergence of data reporting and holding government accountable makes this compelling,” said contest judges. “The abuse of power was stunning to see and actually forced its governor to take on a sector that perhaps wasn’t a priority at first, but this reporting made it so.”
The winners will be announced on May 31. See a list of all the National Awards for Education Reporting finalists here.