Of US-Based Visa Mills, Diploma Mills & Other Rogue Providers

Government watchdogs say the recent visa fraud cases have exposed gaps in ICE’s oversight of schools that admit foreign students – a problem the agency says is being corrected. And experts say the scams hurt the reputation of the U.S. higher education system, which currently enrolls about 900,000 foreign students.

Fake Colleges Attract Attention From Federal Investigators
by Sudhin Thanawala (24.1.15)

The United States exports some of the world’s best and worst higher education. (MAA)

This is something I’ve been ranting and raving about since late 2006, especially in Vietnam but also in general.  While I’m pleased to see the USG address this issue (note: about 150 of the approximately 9,000 schools certified to accept foreign students are slated to be investigated as potential visa mills), I would also like to see the feds take a stand on the other rogue providers authorized to issue I-20s.  While most are not diploma or visa mills, they are unaccredited and by definition not subject to any serious quality assurance or maintenance.

One such university, International American University (IAU), based in Los Angeles (i.e., Orange County), was mentioned in a recent story here about faculty members at a university in Ho Chi Minh City (HCMC) with “unaccredited doctoral degrees.”  IAU appeared on a list I published on this blog in the summer of 2010, which received and, like a bad penny, continues to receive, widespread media attention.

IAU website
IAU website

By the looks of the IAU website, business appears to be booming in a number of Asian countries, including Vietnam.  (Don’t miss the “web photo gallery.”)  The bread and butter programs are two-year, four-year, MBA and doctoral (DBA) degrees in business, which can be earned online, onsite or through a combination of approaches, i.e., hybrid.  (A DBA will set you back 24k, plus fees.)  As with all degrees from unaccredited institutions of higher education, IAU degrees are not recognized in Vietnam in accordance with a Ministry of Education and Training (MoET) decision from August 2010.

This issue was addressed by the Vietnamese government nearly five years ago.  Since most rogue providers operating in Vietnam and many other countries are based in the US, it’s time for the USG to place restrictions on these institutions in order to safeguard the reputation of legitimate US higher education and cut off the “supply” of unaccredited education and training to international students in the source country.

The next step for the USG, after it addresses the “fake college” issue, as described above, is to create a national policy for unaccredited institutions that includes monitoring and regulating their activities on a national level, insisting that they take steps to become accredited within a certain time frame and making sure they are not authorized to issue I-20s until they receive accreditation.  The US should not be in the business of exporting substandard higher education to the rest of the world.


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