All U.S. Institutions issuing F-1 Visas will be required to obtained regional or national accredition

California ETEC has been monitoring and informing our institutional partners and  overseas multipliers about the movement by the U.S. government to require ESL providers( issuing F-1 visas) to hold national or regional accreditation.    After extensive investigation by DHS( including a major GAO investigative report),  now all institutions in the U.S. that issue I-20′s will be required by the U.S. government to obtain national or regional accreditation.   It is our hope this new development will help remove the loopholes that have allowed bad actors such as Tri-Delta College to exploit international students.

Please read the latest story that has appeared in the Chronicle of Higher Education.

 

August 2, 2012

House Passes Bill Requiring Accreditation of Colleges With Foreign Students

By Karin Fischer

Washington

Acting to close a major loophole in the student-visa system, the U.S. House of Representatives has approved legislation requiring colleges and universities that enroll foreign students to be accredited.

By a voice vote, lawmakers on Wednesday night passed a bill, HR 3120, that would require all higher-education institutions that enroll 25 or more students on nonimmigrant visas to have national or regional accreditation recognized by the U.S. Department of Education.

If approved by the U.S. Senate, the measure—which was proposed by Rep. Zoe Lofgren, a California Democrat—would eliminate a significant shortcoming in visa law, passed in the wake of the 2001 terrorist attacks, that has allowed fraudulent universities to take in thousands of foreign students and essentially sell them the right to work in the United States.

“The accreditation requirements instituted by this bill will prevent illegitimate institutions from cheating foreign students who legitimately seek a bona fide education in the United States,” Ms. Lofgren said on the House floor on Tuesday night. “In addition, this requirement will prevent fly-by-night institutions from engaging in student-visa fraud to smuggle or traffic persons into the country.”

Representative Lofgren introduced the legislation in response to the raid and closure of one such institution in California, Tri-Valley University, which was the subject of an extensive Chronicleinvestigation. Although Tri-Valley had no real campus and its students were spread across the country, it was able to win approval from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security to accept overseas students by—falsely, it turns out—asserting that its credits had been accepted by three accredited colleges. Under current law, that was enough. The institution, dubbed a “sham university” by federal investigators, didn’t need to have accreditation itself.

Chronicle reporting uncovered a number of other institutions that appear to have exploited the same loophole in student-visa law or claimed accreditation from little-known, and potentially self-invented, accrediting agencies.

A System Vulnerable to Fraud

The House legislation would require that colleges hold accreditation from accrediting bodies recognized by the Education Department in order to be part of the student-visa system. The bill also would prohibit anyone convicted of an immigration violation, including visa fraud or human trafficking, from being in a position of authority at a college approved to participate in the visa system or from having oversight of international-student records.

If the measure becomes law, colleges will have a three-year window to meet the new accreditation requirement, although the secretary of homeland security would have the authority to waive the mandate if an institution is found to be making a good-faith effort to earn accreditation and is otherwise in compliance with visa rules.

Seminaries and other religious-education institutions would be exempt from the accreditation provision.

Victor C. Johnson, senior adviser for public policy at Nafsa: Association of International Educators, called the legislation a “responsible” and “appropriate” response to the problems that have beset the student-visa system, while providing the homeland-security secretary with some discretion. A recent report by the Government Accountability Office found that the visa program has serious flaws and is vulnerable to fraud.

The fate of the bill—or of any measure in this campaign-shortened Congressional session—is unclear, but a bipartisan group of senators said last week they planned to introduce legislation toimprove oversight of the student-visa system. The measure is still being drafted, but sponsors said it would impose stiffer penalties on those who commit fraud by running bogus institutions, would require that unaccredited schools and colleges in the visa system be visited by federal investigators annually, and would ensure that academic institutions enrolling international students are certified by their home states.

Senators, who held a hearing in the wake of the GAO report, said they also would consider a provision excluding unaccredited institutions from the visa program, as part of the legislation.

Currently, only independent English-language programs are required to hold accreditation in order to enroll foreign students, a law that the langugage schools themselves pushed for in order to weed out bad actors.

A Word to the Wise- How to Idenfity Accredited Schools in the United States

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.orgwww.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 info@californiaetec.com 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.