Waiting for the Other Shoe to Drop: Of Sham Universities & SEVIS Approved Schools


  • Fact: The United States is the world’s leading host of unaccredited schools, also known as rogue providers.
  • Fact: The US State Department represents officially (i.e., regionally and nationally) accredited colleges and universities.
  • Fact: One of the three criteria that consular officers use to make the determination whether or not an applicant “is entitled to a nonimmigrant status” is that s/he must be a bona fide student.

The three aforementioned facts bring me to the topic of this post. Why does the U.S. government consider unaccredited schools for inclusion in the list of SEVIS approved schools compiled by the US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) division of the Department of Homeland Security?

Exhibit A: Tri-Valley University. The lead paragraph of a 2 February Chronicle of Higher Education article entitled U.S. Inquiry Into ‘Sham University’ Creates Friction With India reports the following: An immigration raid on what officials are calling a “sham university” in California is having reverberations in upper levels of the Indian and U.S. governments and will be a topic of discussion when the Indian foreign minister visits Washington this month.

Tri-Valley University’s mission is to make Christian scientists, engineers, business leaders and lawyers for the glory of God, with both solid academic professionalism and Christian faith, therefore to live out Christ-like characters, value and compassion in the world, to make an impact and shine as its light. Our Institution Objective is to equip individual with academic excellence, practical skillfulness and spiritual maturity. We advocate Academic Excellence, Character Integrity, Christ-like Compassion, Inclusion and non-discrimination, and Integration-integration of academic professionalism with Christian faith, integration of principle with practical application, integration of career pursuit with spiritual growth. With gentle hills, beautiful vineyards, historical oaks, Tri-Valley has been the high-tech extension of Silicon Valley, not only becoming the residential area of many engineers, professionals and executives working at Silicon Valley, but also the home of many high-tech companies.

A cursory glance at its website would have disqualified this “university” being granted the authority to issue I-20s to recruit and enroll international students, IMO.

How can students who attend a “school” like Tri-Valley be considered bona fide students? It’s a classic example of the right hand not knowing what the left hand is doing – a Jekyll and Hyde approach to policymaking and implementation.

The happy and sad facts are that the United States exports some of the world’s best and worst higher education. US-based or affiliated unaccredited schools, 25 of which have entered the “Vietnam market,”  are a stain on the generally sterling reputation of US higher education. Why not draw the line at issuing student visas only to those planning to enroll in officially accredited higher education institutions? Why not put the first nail in the coffin of rogue providers by denying them their main source of revenue and profit – international students who are either duped into attending or who are “partners in falsehood,” (i.e., know what they’re doing and hope to get away with it) as Alan Contreras, the administrator of the Oregon Office of Degree Authorization (ODA), once put it.

There are journalists who are currently poring over the list of SEVIS approved schools with a fine-tooth comb. I can assure you the results will not be pretty.  Let the games begin…

Postscript:  The games have begun with the publication of this 20 March article by The Chronicle of Higher EducationLittle-Known Colleges Exploit Visa Loopholes to Make Millions Off Foreign Students

Here’s a 25 March commentary by Mark Shay entitled Standards for Agents – and Colleges that appeared in Inside Higher Ed.  Shay is North America director of IDP Education, and the founder and former CEO of Educational Directories Unlimited.

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