Last year around this time, I wrote about Jose Maria Vargas University (JMVU), a nationally accredited (NA) school based in Florida, which was permitted to join the Institute of International Education’s (IIE) US higher education fairs in Vietnam. This in spite of the fact IIE guidelines state that “Only regionally accredited (RA) two-year, four-year and graduate U.S. institutions may be represented at the IIE Fairs.” This fall the wording was as follows: For students and parents, this (the fairs) is a great opportunity to: meet face-to-face with official representatives of regionally accredited U.S. colleges and universities.
Enter Lincoln University
This year it’s Lincoln University (LU) in CA, a private, non-profit university established in 1926 and whose motto is Learn More, Earn More, Much More! (This particular LU is not to be confused with other regionally accredited universities of the same name.) Lincoln is located in downtown Oakland, CA on 401 15th Street next to Oaksterdam Gift Shop, Ferns Hotel and Payday Loans – Checks Cashed.
Lincoln, like JMVU, is also accredited by the Accrediting Council for Independent Colleges and Schools (ACICS). ACICS accredits such schools as the Bergin University of Canine Studies, where you can earn a degree in Cynology (i.e., the study of dogs), Golden State College of Court Reporting & Captioning, Golf Academy of America, ITT Technical Institute, Kaplan Career Institute, and the Le Cordon Bleu College of Culinary Arts.
Nationally accredited (NA) schools like JMVU and LU like the credibility, honor by association and prestige of being side-by-side with their distant RA cousins . As anyone who knows US higher education is well aware, there is absolutely no comparison between regional and national accreditation in terms of investment, standards and quality.
Lincoln University in the News
Lincoln University was featured in a March 2011 Chronicle of Higher Education article entitled “Little-Known Colleges Exploit Visa Loopholes to Make Millions Off Foreign Students” from which this section is excerpted:
The Godfather of ‘Work Study’
Zhi Zhang never planned to work at Wal-Mart. But when she first arrived at Lincoln University, in Oakland, Calif., to earn a master’s degree in business administration, she applied for every job she could find. At her first job, running a cash register at a Six Flags gift shop, most of her colleagues were high-school students. When a manager from Wal-Mart called, she jumped at the opportunity to get a reliable full-time job.
Ms. Zhang had earned a bachelor’s degree in telecommunications engineering from Sun Yat-Sen University, ranked as one of the top colleges in China. She says she wanted to study and work in the United States to improve her career prospects when she returned to China, and she chose Lincoln because it was easy to gain admission and close to San Francisco.
Ms. Zhang was unimpressed by Lincoln when she arrived. The college, unlike Tri-Valley, is accredited and holds regular classes. But it is a modest operation, offering a handful of mostly business degrees out of a former bank building in downtown Oakland. Open spaces have been converted to three floors of offices, classrooms, and a student center in the basement.
“To be honest, the first day I saw the campus, I was thinking: Wow, even my primary school is bigger than that,” Ms. Zhang said.
She spent her first months behind a Wal-Mart cash register in utter confusion. Her English was poor, she says, and the customers asked for items that don’t exist in China: spaghetti, cheese, and endless canned food. “Wal-Mart customers are not very patient, actually,” Ms. Zhang says. She remembers wandering down the aisles memorizing the names of obscure tinned meats. But after three months she was promoted to a customer-service manager.
Looking at the News and Events section of the website, LU seems to offer lots of activities for its students, including this recent Pizza- Paint Party – on “Septmeber 28th,2012.” “Vote for your color and help us have it on the wall.”
My question to you, dear readers, is this: Is this the kind of institution that IIE wants at its fairs, alongside regionally accredited colleges and universities, including some of best in the country? Surely, the “literature only” fee of $650 is not worth the possibility of raising the ire of RA representatives and the potential damage to IIE’s reputation.
Last year, I wrote of my hope that Jose Maria Vargas University’s participation in the IIE US higher education fairs was an aberration and not a nasty precedent for future fairs. LU’s presence at the Hanoi fair leaves me wondering if the hole in the dike widened or someone dropped the ball (again).
Note: I served as country director of IIE-Vietnam from 2005-09 and, pursuant to IIE’s stated policy – then and now – I don’t recall ever allowing a NA school to participate in any of the Vietnam fairs. While IIE is a nonprofit with strong US State Department ties (e.g., 60% of its budget last year came from State), its path diverges from that of EducationUSA/State in this fundamental respect: it does not – on paper at least – permit NA schools to join its higher ed fairs, while EducationUSA works with ALL accredited US colleges and universities. It’s not only politics that makes for strange bedfellows…