“The Dregs of Higher Education Damage Our Immigration System”

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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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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

ACICS Loss of Accreditation: What it Means for Schools & International Students

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Facebook post on 22.12.16  by EducationUSA

Here is the official announcement from the US Department of Homeland Security that the US Department of Education no longer recognizes the Accrediting Council for Independent Colleges and Schools (ACICS) as an accrediting agency, a decision that affects more than 16,000 international students in the US attending nearly 130 Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP)-certified schools and programs that are accredited by ACICS. (There are also implications for the significantly higher number of US Americans students enrolled in these mostly for-profit schools.)

This is an issue I’ve been writing and talking about for a long time, including in the hallowed pages of this blog. The only reason it has come to this is because of the crack investigative reporting of BuzzFeed and the fact that a couple of political leaders, one at the state and another at the national level, took an interest in the sordid results of this long-term lack of oversight.  ACICS essentially dug its own grave by not minding the store. The gig is finally up.

Here’s a blog post I wrote last summer about this reporting and Northwestern Polytechnic University in Fremont, CA.  There are others.  Consider my post an introduction to the rather large elephant in the room, which DHS and EducationUSA chose to ignore.

Another pending issue is the fact that a number of SEVP-certified  schools are not accredited, which means there is no quality assurance or maintenance.  As the announcement points out, “Most SEVP-certified schools are not required to obtain accreditation and can provide evidence in lieu of accreditation.”  To be continued…

MAA