Both Northwestern Polytechnic and Silicon Valley University are accredited, a distinction that allows colleges with many foreign students to avoid the most stringent oversight. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s student visa program depends on the accreditation system: it requires less documentation from accredited schools that want authorization to admit foreign students than it asks of unaccredited schools.
Not All Types of Accreditation Are Created Equal
This is ironic because accredited institutions are supposed to be held to a higher standard. Of course, there are different levels of accreditation and different types of accreditors. National accreditation (NA), the category into which both NPU and SVU fall, is not to be confused with regional accreditation (RA), considered to be the gold standard. NA is much easier and much less expensive to obtain. While most NA entities are for-profit online and career schools, quite a few are nonprofits, which gives them more legitimacy, in the eyes of many.
Once an institution receives accreditation and it obtains SEVP Certification, which gives it the authority to issue I-20s, it can pretty much run on autopilot until a scandal of some sort surfaces in the media. The article on which this post is based is Exhibit A.
Truth in Advertising?
Another point, which I’ve mentioned on many occasions, is the fact that most RA schools do not accept credits or credentials from NA schools, for obvious reasons. This means if a NPU or SVU students want to transfer, they must start over again, in most cases. This is also an issue that the US government – through EducationUSA – must address sooner rather than later, since EdUSA represents all “officially accredited” US colleges and universities.
$how Me The Money!
Here’s one of the money paragraphs in the article, pun intended.
Thanks to its huge surge in enrollment, NPU took in $40 million in 2014, and spent $12 million — leaving it with a $28 million surplus…
Hmm, let’s see. Revenue of $40 million with $12 million in expenses and a $28 million surplus translates into a 70% profit margin. Nonprofits are also tax-exempt, if I’m not mistaken, which means that’s $28 mill tax-free. Not too shabby. In addition, the value of NPU’s assets jumped from $46.53 million to $75.32 million in 2014. Also not too shabby. In fact, that’s one hell of a business model.
Speaking of tax-exempt, NPU might want to find someone to proofread their 990 form. Here are some excerpts from the 2014 Return of Organization Exempt from Income Tax:
Summary: TO PROVIDE AN ADVANCE EDUCATION AND A HIGH TECHNOLOGY LEARNING ENVILROMENT THAT MOTIVATS STUDENTS TO PURSUE …
Organization’s Mission: …NPU SEEKS TO PREPARE ITS STUDENTS TO BEGIN AND ENHANCE THEIR PROFESSIONAL CAREERS IN COMPUTERS, ENGINEERING, AND BUSINESS THROUGH STUDY IN BOTH UNDERGADUATE AND GARADUATE CURRICULA.
Who’s Minding the Store?
From a colleague who shares my concerns about this issue:
- What are the odds students are told up front about the RA vs NA distinction?
- What are the odds students are being introduced to quality options?
These are rhetorical questions. You know the answers, sadly.
Where are the referrals coming from? You know where. From education agents whose primary, or exclusive, concern is money and how much they can make – pronto. These are what one colleague referred to as “bottom feeding agents.” Students who attend these types of universities generally fall into two categories: 1) those who think it’s something that it’s not because an agent sells them a bill of goods (they show up, discover the deception and look for quality transfer opportunities); and 2) those whom a well-known colleague aka accreditation expert calls “willing co-conspirators,” who – with a wink and a nod – go, pay 20k a year (tuition/fees only) and wait for the chance to work and eventually emigrate. The latter know the score.
As one colleague put it, “It’s a great illustration of how lax oversight by the US government perpetuates agent misconduct and gives professionals of all stripes a bad name in the process. ”
Easy as Pie
These schools know which hoops to jump through & which buttons to push (we’re legal, we’re accredited, we’re American!). Meanwhile, too many student visa applications are being denied because the interviewing consular officers think or feel that the young people standing on the other side of the window, most of whom have letters of admission and I-20s from RA institutions, might be trying to use the F1 to emigrate.
In addition to the article, check out both university websites and form your own opinion. Note that the new president of NPU is the son of the former and first president. That’s called keeping it in the family. In 2014, President George Hsieh earned $299,792 and his son, Peter, then Executive Vice President and Officer, earned $257,292.
Follow this link to read the article in its entirety. A Vietnamese translation is forthcoming. And the truth will set you free. Stay tuned!
Finally, kudos to BuzzFeed reporters, Molly Hensley-Clancy and Brendan Klinkenberg! I should probably create a series entitled Set Thine House in Order, which I kicked off with a recent post about mass shootings and study in the USA.
Bonus: Here’s a 23 December 2015 article from The Times of India entitled ‘University of Manavallu’: In Silicon Valley, a dodgy Chinese-Telugu alliance.