“The Dregs of Higher Education Damage Our Immigration System”

dregs2

This organization, whose slogan is Low-immigration, Pro-immigrant, is not one whose work I would normally cite but this is a well-researched report.  It is about an important issue I have been writing for quite some time now, a lone voice in the US higher education accreditation wilderness, so to speak.  There is more than one loophole, by the way.  The bottom line, both figuratively and literally, is that these institutions are gaming the system.  Sometimes, the “free market” is too free.  

The accreditor mentioned, ACICS, was derecognized by the US Department of Education in the waning days of the Obama Administration.  While I hoped for the best, i.e., that ACICS would go the way of the dinosaur, thereby resulting in the loss of institutional accreditation for all of its accredited institutions, I also had the nagging feeling that this ruling would appear on someone’s radar in the Trump Administration.  Why?  Because there’s so much money at $take.

This is an account of how, because of a loophole in the immigration law, dozens of U.S.-based, fourth-rate purveyors of higher education have had multiple negative impacts on the United States while raking in multi-millions of dollars. In the course of this they have:

  • Provided F-1 visas and work permits to tens of thousands of foreign “students”, many of whom are really illegal aliens in disguise;
  • Supplied nominal educational services, if any, to those aliens;
  • Charged those students substantial to outrageous fees;
  • Misled their students on the state of the entities’ academic accreditations;
  • Engaged in a variety of shady financial practices; and, in some cases
  • Used their status as “universities” to hire a suspiciously large numbers of aliens through the H-1B program, including, for example, English professors from Turkey;
  • Provided suspiciously large numbers of multiple-year OPT work permissions to their lightly educated alien alumni; and, in two or three cases,
  • Used their status as IRS-recognized charities to avoid substantial state and federal taxes.

Another problem is most regionally accredited (RA) institutions do not accept credits or credentials (degrees) from nationally accredited schools, for obvious reasons.  (RA is considered to be the gold standard of institutional accreditation.)  This is a fact that many NA schools do not share with prospective students.  

Follow this link to read the report in its entirety.

Peace, MAA

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Record Number of B Visas Issued to Vietnamese in 2017

travel state gov

Since information is power, or at least helps in many decision-making processes, I am always looking for trends based on statistics and other data.  In the last (2017) fiscal year (FY) ending on 30 September 2017, a record 100,423 B-1,2 (tourist and business) visas were issued to Vietnamese citizens. 

The number of student visas issued during the same time was 17,275. While the US State Department does not release this information, one can assume – based on anecdotal sources – that the refusal rate is much higher for student visas, more so at the US Consulate in HCMC, which is considered a high fraud post, than at the US Embassy in Hanoi.  Check out this March 2018 blog post for more information about US student visas and Vietnamese students.

What is Adjusted Refusal Rate?  

Before we take a look at some visas stats from FY06 to FY17, here’s a definition of this term.  The visa waiver program nonimmigrant visitor refusal rate is based on the worldwide number of applicants for visitor (B) visas who are nationals of that country.  (B visas are issued for short-term business or pleasure travel to the US.)  The US State Department omits all applications from the calculation except the last one.  For example, if an applicant was refused in May and issued a visa in July of the same year, only the issuance will count.  If an applicant is refused twice, it will only be counted as one refusal.  

In rare cases, an applicant may end the year in a third category, “overcome.”  This happens when a consular officer has the information s/he needs to overcome a refusal
but has not processed the case to completion.  

Thus, the adjusted refusal rate equals: [Refusals minus Overcomes] divided by [Issuances plus Refusals minus Overcomes].

Example:  Determination of B Visa Adjusted Refusal Rate for Country X:
Country X, worldwide, had 305,024 B visa applicants end the fiscal year in the “issuance” status; 20,548 end in “refused” status; and 88 end in “overcome” status.  
Refusals minus Overcomes = 20,548 – 88 = 20,460
Issuances plus Refusals minus Overcomes = 305,024 + 20,548 – 88 = 325,484
20,460 divided by 325,484 = 6.3 percent (Adjusted Refusal Rate)

The complete description, from which the above formula was excerpted, can be downloaded here.  (This file includes links to refusal rate data from FY06 to FY17.)

The Ups and Downs of B Visa Issuance Rates

Last year, the adjusted refusal rate was 24.06%, which means that the issuance rate was 75.94%.  If 100,423 B visas were issued, a total of about 132,000 Vietnamese citizens applied for a B visa from 1 October 2016 to 30 September 2017.  The number of B visa issued jumped from 5,231 in 2006 to over 100,000 in 2017, a nineteen-fold increase in 11 years.  Follow this link to review this and related data.  

The factors that have contributed to substantial increases in B visa issuances include growing ability to afford overseas travel for pleasure and more business ties between Viet Nam and the US, which has produced an ever-expanding pool of applicants.  Another likely reason is that there are simply more qualified applicants.  The highest denial rate was in 2006 and the lowest in 2014. 

FY17: 24.06% (100,423)
FY16: 29.49% (86,180)
FY15: 23.43% (80,936)
FY14: 14.30% (67,140)
FY13: 20.30% (49,247)
FY12: 22.20% (41,159)
FY11: 33.50% (34,280)
FY10: 36.10% (30,811)
FY09: 42.30% (27,304)
FY08: 38.80% (30,426)
FY07: 36.30% (21,398)
FY06: 40.90%  (5,231)

Peace, MAA

 

Viet Nam Ranks 5th in International Enrollment in 3 Countries

…including Australia, Canada, and the USA!  Those countries also happen to be the world’s leading hosts of international students, albeit in this order:  1)  USA; 2) Australia; and 3) Canada, followed by the UK and Germany.  

intl students australia 3-18

Of the estimated 200,000 Vietnamese students studying overseas, 23,000 are in Australia (PDF download), about 15,000 are in Canada, and 31,613 are in the US.   Japan is the world’s leading host of Vietnamese students with 61,671 in 2017.  This means 131,284, or two-thirds, of all Vietnamese studying overseas are in the top four (4) host countries. 

Peace, MAA

 

 

Viet Nam Is One of Two Top 10 Sending Countries With An Increase In Latest SEVIS Stats

study in the states logoIn the latest SEVIS by the Numbers update in March 2018, only two (2) among the top 10 sending countries recorded an increase in the number of students studying in the US:  Brazil and Viet Nam.   The other eight (8) saw decreases ranging from 4.43% to .28%.  Brazil jumped two places from 9th to 7th.  Taiwan surpassed Japan to take 8th place because its enrollment decrease was less than that of Japan, which slipped to 9th place.  The downward trend continued for Saudi Arabia and Mexico.

Viet Nam, with a nominal increase of 224 students (.71%), is treading water, statistically speaking.  The most notable increases and decreases among Vietnamese students were for secondary schools, i.e., boarding and day (from 4,129 or 13.2% to 4,448 or 14.1%), and language training (from 2,754 or 8.5% to 2,398 or 7.6%), respectively. 

Since I’ve heard of modest decreases in Vietnamese visa applications across-the-board, including student visas, I don’t expect this situation to change between March and the end of the fiscal year.  What happens this summer, the peak season for F-1 issuances, will tell the story for this year.  Stay tuned.

Keep in mind that probably about 9% of the F-1 Vietnamese higher education enrollment is for the Optional Practical Training (OPT) program, based on IIE Open Doors 2017 data, meaning these are recent graduates who are currently working. 

Top 10 Sending Countries as of March 2018

Country Dec-17 Mar-18 Percentage Change
China 382,908 377,070 -1.52%
India 212,288 211,703 -0.28%
S. Korea 68,128 67,326 -1.18%
Saudi Arabia 49,298 47,707 -3.23%
Viet Nam 31,389 31,613 +0.71%
Canada 30,034 29,750 -0.95%
Japan 24,809 23,710 -4.43% (9th in 3-18)
Taiwan 24,110 23,810 -1.24%  (8th in 3-18)
Brazil 23,901 24,858 +4.00%  (7th in 3-18)
Mexico 16,212 15,511 -4.32%
Peace, MAA

ACICS is Back in Business!

acics logoAnd I do mean busine$$.  Yes, this is the same national accrediting organizing that was “derecognized” by the US Department of Education during the last few months of the Obama administration, a decision that stood until a couple of weeks ago.  Speaking of which, I was writing an email to a colleague about a previously Accrediting Council for Independent Colleges and Schools (ACICS)-accredited institution in California that was shut down.  In that email I mentioned that ACICS was going the way of the dinosaur.  Before hitting send, I decided to take a take a peek at its website.  Lo and behold, I saw this Message to Membership! in bold: Secretary of Education Orders Restoration of ACICS as a Federally Recognized Accrediting Agency as of December 2016 and Outlines Next Steps in the Compliance Review Process

Someone at ACICS, or probably one of its more influential supporters, put a bee in someone else’s bonnet, presumably someone in a position of power and, voilà, new life was breathed into ACICS.  (This NYT article from 1 April 2018 delves into some of this:  It Oversaw For-Profit Colleges That Imploded. Now It Seeks a Comeback.)  This has many implications, including the fact that all of the ACICS-accredited institutions that had to find new institutional accreditation by this June are suddenly off the hook.  It’s a happy day in National Accreditation Land.

What a relief for ACICS and its accredited schools.  What terrible news for those of us who value quality US higher education and are concerned about substandard institutions cashing in on the cachet of US education and, some cases, tarnishing its generally sterling reputation.  The half-full part of me was hoping that the Trump administration would overlook this tiny corner of US higher education and that there would be some justice, at least in this case.  But it was not meant to be, not with the likes of Trump and Betsy “Amway” DeVos calling the shots.  There’s simply too much money at stake.  And money, after all, is what drives key decisions in an oligarchy.

Keep in mind that this is the same ACICS that fell asleep at the wheel and allowed not-so-stellar universities like Northwestern Polytechnic University (NPU) to exist.  It was because of the crack investigative reporting of Buzzfeed that the public, including a certain US senator from Connecticut, learned of this visa mill.  That’s when the shit really hit the fan. 

Then there was the great Silicon Valley University (SVU), another visa mill, also in northern California, that has been in the news, often in tandem with NPU.  Both were ACICS-accredited and both were family businesses masquerading as nonprofits.  (SVU had its accreditation revoked last December and NPU is accredited through 31.12.18, for what that’s worth.)  In both cases, no one was minding the shop. 

How is ACICS rewarded for this egregious lack of oversight?  Allowed to continue with business as usual, which reminds me of this 2017 Bill Maher editorial.  I’m waiting for the next shoe to drop. 

In a word, disgraceful

Peace, MAA

Catholicism, the Vietnamese Language, & Student Recruitment in Viet Nam

mary in viet nam
A (presumably) Catholic Uber driver in HCMC

NOTE:  Don’t worry, dear reader, I will have connected the dots, more or less, by the end of this post.  🙂

Among the various legacies of French colonialism, loosely defined, including colonial architecture, baguettes, butter, economic exploitation, war, and various words (bia-bière-beer, bơ-beurre-butter, bồ-beau-lover, cà phê-café–coffee, lavabo=sink, phô mai-fromage-cheese) was the introduction of Catholicism, which dates to the early 16th century.  (The French colonial era lasted roughly from 1859 to their defeat at the battle of Điện Biên Phủ in 1954.)

One of the ways this was accomplished was through the transcription of the language from “a rendering of Vietnamese vernacular based on the Chinese script” (Chữ Nôm) into the Latin alphabet (chữ Quốc ngữ), thanks to Portuguese missionaries and, later, a French Jesuit missionary by the name of Alexandre de Rhodes, who picked up where his predecessors left off.  (It’s worth mentioning that de Rhodes is one of the few foreigners with streets named after him in Viet Nam.  Such was the magnitude of his singular contribution to Vietnamese culture.)  

The Jesuits’ primary goal? To evangelize the Vietnamese. Unlike their counterparts in South America and Africa, the Tonkinese Jesuits encountered an elaborate, bureaucratic state governed by a well-established monarchy. This meant that they had to tread very carefully and focus their efforts on disenfranchised sections of society. Despite the challenges, says Dutton, the number of converts in Tonkin by 1639 was estimated at about 80,000. Less than 30 years later, there were perhaps 350,000 Vietnamese Catholics, and it wasn’t just a fad: Visit the coastline between Hai Phong and Ninh Binh today and you’ll encounter hundreds of churches and a deeply established Catholic tradition. (How the Latin Alphabet Ended Up in Vietnam, 10.9.17)

IMG_3881
A Catholic church in HCMC

The Latinization of Vietnamese can be viewed as a positive colonial legacy because it made it easier for Vietnamese children to learn their own language without memorizing characters and for foreigners to learn a language that has no fewer than six (6) tones.  De Rhodes, who arrived in Hanoi in 1620, is quoted as comparing the language to “the singing of the birds” and confessing to “losing all hope of ever being able to learn it.”  But learn and master it, he did. 

Perhaps less successful was the conversion of the mostly Buddhist Vietnamese to Catholicism.  Catholics now comprise about 7% of Viet Nam’s population of 96 million.  For historical reasons that transcend a blog post, the majority of them live in central and southern Viet Nam.  (A related point is the close ties between the Catholic Church and the French colonial administration and, later, the Republic of Viet Nam aka “South Vietnam.”  (Link to PDF file article entitled Tools of Empire? Vietnamese Catholics in South Vietnam by Van Nguyen-Marshall.)  Most Vietnamese Christians are Catholics.  Many of the Protestants, who are relatively few in number, are drawn from some ethnic minorities and live in remote areas.

Catholicism & Overseas Study

Since this is a blog about international education, let me concluding by saying that Catholic high schools and institutions of higher education tend to be well-respected, or at least there is no stigma attached to being Catholic.  There is the perception among some non-Catholic parents that these schools offer a warm and supportive environment in which students are well-taken care of – in all respects.  In other words, their religious affiliation can be viewed as a selling point not a liability.  That is not the case with many evangelical Christian institutions, which have a reputation among some parents of wanting to convert their children to that particular brand of Christianity.  This is a perception these schools should address and counteract in their marketing and personal interactions, if it’s not true.

Peace, MAA

Live from Viet Nam – An E20 Webinar!

e20 webinar

Last week, I had the opportunity to present on one of my favorite topics, Viet Nam, to a virtual audience of over 40 US colleagues, including those from higher and secondary education.   I’m grateful to Syed Jamal from Branta and Renait Stephens from Study in the USA, event co-sponsor, for inviting me and for scheduling the session earlier than usual, i.e., at 10 p.m. Viet Nam time.  (The usual time is 10 a.m. Pacific, which is 1 a.m. my time!) This meant that I still had my wits about me and was relatively coherent after a long day of travel and work. 

Branta-01

In my approximately 20-minute presentation, I provided a wide-ranging overview of current/recent issues and trends in Viet Nam in order to place interest in overseas study and student recruitment in a broader societal and even historical contact. 

In addition to a country update that included up-to-date statistics about young Vietnamese studying overseas in general and in the US in particular, I talked about some keys to success in a very competitive market, emphasizing how important it is for institution to find what works for them often through a process of trial and error.  I concluded with a brief discussion of the importance of digital marketing in a country with a high Internet and social media penetration rate, especially for one at its stage of development, and the often problematic issue of student visas.  Regarding the latter, it’s important to focus on what is within our control, e.g., embrace visa counseling and reject scripting.

I also shared a link with all participants to a password-protected page I created on this very blog entitled Selected Online Resources About Viet Nam & Student Recruitment.

Peace, MAA