A shaky educational institution in Northern Virginia, where rampant plagiarism on tests gets marks of 100 percent, according to a report from a Virginia state agency, is facing termination early next week.
But the owner of the little American College of Commerce and Technology, which rents space within a Falls Church, Va., office building, is trying to avoid that fate by a sale of either the college or its holding company, ACCT, Inc. It is not clear which.
This is of interest, as the Center for Immigration Studies has characterized the small, non-accredited, for-profit institution as a visa mill, an organization that has the power to cause the admission of foreign students who are routinely more interested in the work permits it generates than any education that it may provide. Some 93 percent of the students of the American College are from overseas.
The fact that this visa mill is still alive reflects badly on the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, which has not lifted a finger in the case, leaving all the heavy lifting to an obscure arm of Virginia's state government, the State Council on Higher Education for Virginia (SCHEV).
ACCT's president and, until now, part-owner, William Schipper, is said to have signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with an unknown party or parties, to sell the college. Such a sale might cause a postponement, perhaps a protracted one, of the scheduled decision of the state agency, on the apparent grounds that the change of ownership should cause the state agency to re-think any decision on its termination.
Any last minute changes in the ownership will not change the nature of the little college, it would just be putting the proverbial lipstick on the proverbial lips of the proverbial pig.
The Pending Termination. The SCHEV staff, following a more than one-year-long investigation of its academic practices, has formally recommended to its Council — in a public document — that it revoke ACCT's license to provide education in Virginia. In its report to the Council, the staff said that it had found:
... numerous findings of non-compliance. These findings included violations related to fundamental issues of quality and institutional integrity, such as: unqualified faculty; failure to follow stated admissions standards, questionable English proficiency of students admitted to graduate programs and substandard quality in instruction
The plagiarism charges, which occupy a separate addendum to the staff report, quote some texts of exam papers that are totally meaningless, yet secured 100 percent marks. These relate to students attempting to outwit the plagiarism-checking software now used by universities; the fraudulent process calls for substituting different words from those in the original text to disable the checking process; but if the words are not chosen carefully — and bear in mind that English is not the first language of most of the students — the altered text is meaningless.
If one substitutes "commerce" for "business" in a plagiarized text it might work, but if a student replaces "business" with "bridge", the text would soon lose all meaning.
The staff report quotes some examples of these gibberish answers to test questions, and notes in some cases that the lax faculty had given the students marks of 100 percent for these essays.
The staff report also indicates that a number of instructors that SCHEV identified as unqualified to teach certain courses were still teaching those courses. The 11-member Council, all gubernatorial appointees, will meet early next week at Norfolk State University to decide on, among other things, the fate of ACCT.
The staff of SHEV has written a nearly 100-page report of its investigations of ACCT; it starts on page 32 of the of the Council's agenda book. Using the text page numbers, as opposed to those online, the report starts on page 32, and the portion on plagiarism on page 118.
Other Perils. My recent CIS report on visa mills in general, "The Dregs of Higher Education Damage Our Immigration System", identifies 55 colleges nationwide — including ACCT — as compromised colleges, defined as those allowed to admit foreign students, but without any accreditation by an entity recognized by the U.S. Department of Education. ACCT is one of the 55 as it was only accredited by the Accrediting Council for Independent Colleges and Schools (ACICS), a rather lax accreditation agency run by the for-profit education sector; ACICS, in turn, was de-recognized by the U.S. Department of Education last year, leaving ACCT without any accreditation at all.
Meanwhile, ACICS, which is still in existence, last month denied ACCT a renewal of even that accreditation, putting it in the nation's educational dump heap.
Earlier financial reports of ACCT, again public documents on file with SCHEV, were both illiterate and misleading. One of them, for example, managed to spell the word "interest" four different ways, one correctly, in five lines of type.
ACCT was ordered by SCHEV not to take on any new students after May 1. As a result, attendance has fallen, two pay cuts have been imposed on the remaining teachers, and ACCT has shrunk its already small space in the Falls Church building.
Further, ACCT has not appealed the recent negative decision of ACICS, which would have involved sending a check of $10,000 to ACICS headquarters in Washington.
It looks as if ACCT is in a death spiral.