The Golf Academy of America, which has a campus in Myrtle Beach, got good news last week from the U.S. Department of Education.
The school, which has five campuses across the country, has been in the process of trying to save its accreditation that allows its students to participate in federal student aid programs.
It has a 16-month program that offers an Associate’s Degree in Golf Operations and Management, and has been accredited by the Accrediting Council for Independent Colleges and Schools (ACICS).
But in Dec. 2016 then U.S. Department of Education Secretary John King upheld a decision of the Senior Department Official to cease recognition of the ACICS as an agency that can provide schools with a seal of approval for educational quality.
Schools accredited by ACICS had an 18-month grace period to find another accrediting agency or hope ACICS is reinstated through an appeals process.
Last week, Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos announced that the US Department of Education has retroactively reinstated the federal recognition of ACICS as of December 2016, and the accreditor will remain in that status until she can reconsider its prior request for re-recognition.
The reinstatement follows the March 23, 2018, decision by U.S. district judge Reggie B. Walton that concluded the former ED Secretary erred in not considering more than 36,000 pages of relevant materials before denying ACICS’ petition for continued recognition in 2016.
That information will be reviewed and ACICS will have the opportunity to submit additional information by May 30.
If ACICS convinces the Secretary that it meets all regulatory criteria, its recognition will continue to 2021. If not, the Secretary announced she may consider an alternative to denial that allows ACICS an additional 12 months to demonstrate compliance.
In either case, it appears schools that were accredited by ACICS will have longer than the current deadline of June 12 to retain Title IV eligibility, which allows students to receive federal financial aid and gives credence to their earned degrees.
ACICS oversaw 245 institutions – many of them for-profits such as the Golf Academy of America – that collectively received $4.76 billion in federal aid in 2015, according to InsideHigherEd.com.
The GAA attracts a number of past military members who attend the school through their GI Bill education benefits, so retaining accreditation is integral to continuing to attract those students, and any others who seek student financial aid.
The school’s degree is an Associate of Applied Business at the San Diego, Phoenix and Myrtle Beach campuses, and it is an Occupational Associate’s Degree at the Orlando and Dallas campuses.
GAA has been taking steps to preserve its accreditation.
The GAA’s parent company is Education Corporation of America, which has more than 80 colleges across the U.S. They are mostly under the GAA, Brightwood College, ecotech institute, New England College of Business, Virginia College, and Culinard - The Culinary Institute of Virginia College.
Gene Augustine, the Golf Academy of America Myrtle Beach campus president, said the school has been in the process of attempting to receive accreditation from another organization, the Accrediting Council for Continuing Education and Training, while continuing its ties with ACICS.
Augustine said representatives from ACCET came to the campus in October and he thought the visit went well. He said the representatives reviewed the school’s records, checked instructor credentials and sat in on classes, and he is confident the school will retain accreditation without a lapse, whether it be from ACICS or ACCET.
“We’re very happy the [Department of Education] decided to reinstate ACICS, this way our students can continue to get federal aid so they can complete their studies,” Augustine said. “However Education Corporation of America hasn’t made a decision on whether we’ll stay with ACICS or move to ACCET.”
The Myrtle Beach campus has an enrollment of 98 students, Augustine said, and costs a total of $34,300 for its four semesters. The degrees of past graduates will not be affected by the status of ACICS, since the school was accredited when the degrees were earned.
RBC sets field
Steve Stricker, a 12-time PGA Tour winner, was among the final commitments before Friday’s deadline and joins world No. 1 and Coastal Carolina alumnus Dustin Johnson as a participant this week in the PGA Tour’s 50th RBC Heritage Presented by Boeing.
Stricker, the 2017 U.S. Presidents Cup Captain who has two wins on the Champions Tour this year, hasn’t played in the RBC Heritage at Harbour Town Golf Links in Hilton Head Island since 1998.
Johnson is a new Royal Bank of Canada ambassador on tour and joins fellow RBC-affiliated golfers Jim Furyk, Matt Kuchar, Graeme McDowell and Brandt Snedeker – all four are past Heritage winners – in the field.
“The golf game is in good shape. I’ve got a lot of confidence in it,” Johnson said Sunday following his tie for 10th in the Masters. “I feel like I’m swinging it really well, I’m hitting the right shots and giving myself a lot of chances, I just need to work on the putter a little bit.”
Johnson played in the Heritage in his first two seasons on the PGA Tour in 2008 and 2009 and missed the cut on both occasions. His new affiliation with RBC was his encouragement to return to his home state’s lone PGA Tour event.
South Carolina is well represented with residents or natives Johnson, Scott Brown, Lucas Glover, Bill Haas, Kevin Kisner, Ben Martin, William McGirt, Jonathan Byrd and defending champion Wesley Bryan, who is the first tournament winner from the Palmetto State.
Other notables include world No. 13 Paul Casey, No. 16 Marc Leishman, who finished in the top 10 Sunday at the Masters, Ian Poulter, Beau Hossler, a PGA Tour rookie who lost to Poulter in a playoff for the Houston Open title, Clemson University amateur and reigning U.S. Amateur champion Doc Redman, major champions Jason Dufner, Martin Kaymer, Charl Schwartzel and Webb Simpson, and former world No. 1 Luke Donald.
Committed past RBC champions include Aaron Baddeley, Stewart Cink, Glen Day, Brian Gay, Carl Pettersson and Davis Love III, whose son Dru Love is also in the field.
Others teeing off Thursday include No. 23 Brian Harman, Kevin Chappell, Bryson DeChambeau, Matthew Fitzpatrick, Francesco Molinari and Patton Kizzire, who has already won twice as a tour rookie this year and is second in FedExCup points.
USGA seeks vols
The 2019 U.S. Women’s Open will be played a couple hours from Myrtle Beach at the Country Club of Charleston next May 30-June 2, and the United States Golf Association opened volunteer registration late last week.
The USGA is seeking approximately 2,500 volunteers to fill positions on 17 committees, including marshals, players services, leaderboards and merchandise. Volunteer assignments for these committees occur on a first-come, first-served basis, so interested volunteers should visit uswomensopen.com/2019uswo and click on the “Volunteers” tab, which also provides comprehensive committee descriptions.
All volunteers will need to purchase the volunteer package for $85. It includes one championship golf shirt, jacket, hat or visor, water bottle and volunteer credential valid for all seven days of the championship, as well as access to volunteer hospitality with complimentary food, snacks and beverages on the days they volunteer. Each volunteer will be asked to complete four 5-6 hour shifts through the duration of the tournament.
The 74th Women’s Open will be the first of four championships the USGA is bringing to the Carolinas next year. Others are the U.S. Senior Women’s Open at Pine Needles Lodge & Golf Club in Southern Pines, N.C., from May 16-19; U.S. Amateur at Pinehurst Resort in Pinehurst, N.C., from Aug. 12-18; and U.S. Senior Amateur at Old Chatham Golf Club in Durham, N.C., from Aug. 24-29.
The USGA is accepting volunteer inquiries for those tournaments, which haven’t yet opened volunteer registration.