2011 will be well remembered for the surprising number of schools with SEVIS status exposed for illegally issuing F-1 Visas to students that either did not attend the school or were merely enrolled to a shell campus – a location that neither had a campus nor any meaningful delivery of academic programming. Who is to blame for the proliferation of such “sham” universities? It seems that a confluence of circumstances including lack of information, greed and outsized demand for study visas in China, India and Vietnam have been the main drivers for this emerging problem.
Tri-Valley University in Pleasanton, California and North Virigina University located in Annandale, Virigina were two of the more egregious cases that surfaced last year. In the case of Tri-Valley, nearly 1500 students from India were registered to school being run out of a modest office building with a made up list of faculty and no students actually attending classes. Northern Virginia University a non-accredited, for profit- university was authorized by SEVIS to enroll 50 students, but US Embassy and State Department officials found more than 2400 students, 90 percent from a single region in India, registered to the school.
As a record number of would-be international students consider study in the U.S., it is important that these students are steered toward credible programs that are accredited by the appropriate governing authorities.
What a prospective international student or international student advisor should know?
- There are six regional accreditors of U.S. Higher Education- Middle States Association of Colleges and Schools; New England Association of Schools and Colleges; North Central Association of Collegs and Schools; Northwest Accreditation Commission; Western Association of Schools and Colleges; Southern Association of Colleges and Schools. www.chea.org
- Accrediting Council for Independent Colleges and Schools(ACICS) governs independent colleges and schools of higher learning. www.acics.org
- A list of unaccredited institutions of higher education can be found doing a simple Wikipedia search
- Accreditation of English Language Training Programs Act was signed in to law on December 10, 20120. This new law requires all English Language Training Schools seeking to enroll F-1 Non immigrant students to receive accreditation by a regional or national accrediting agency recognized by the Secretary of the Department of Education. www.accet.org; www.cea-accredit.org
How to avoid being scammed by a fraudulent school?
- Schedule an appointment with your in-country EducationUSA Office to identify accredited schools in the United States. EducationUSA staff will be able to provide no-cost, unbiased student advising services.
- Request proof of accreditation from the language school or academic institution you are planning to seek admission
- If you are working with a study agent, ask that the agency to provide information about the accreditation council which approved the school in question.
- Verify with your local government that the academic credits you will receive from the U.S. institution will be recognized in-country.
- Finally, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org if you have any questions about accreditation or would like a referral to a local resource who can assist you answering questions about U.S. institutions.