As we have mentioned before, the DHS agency regulating schools for foreign students does not require that such schools be credentialed by an entity recognized by the U.S. Department of Education.
That's a jaw-dropping statement, but is par for the course with the Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP), perhaps the most lax of the immigration enforcement agencies despite its being run by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).
So if a marginal school opens its doors and wangles a state or territorial license of some kind, it can start causing the issuance of F-1 visas for any number of foreign students, but there is one mild SEVP requirement: Without accreditation it must have letters from three other educational institutions saying that they accept the credits earned by its students.
A wannabe school for foreign students, the Virginia University of Science and Technology (VUST), in the Virginia suburbs of Washington, D.C., finds itself not only struggling to keep a state license to operate (more on that later), but has been unable so far to secure more than two such letters. (A CIS intern called VUST a few months ago about their ability to accept foreign students and was told "call us back in a couple of months, maybe we will have our third letter by then.")
The apparent lack of that needed third letter is despite the fact that VUST's fairly new president, Hasan Karaburk, has worked as executive or a teacher at the following institutions:
- Virginia International University
- Iglobal University
- Tyson's College
- Tyson's Institute
- Stratford University
- BAU International University
- University of the District of Columbia
- National Louis University
- Moscow State University
The first five (all obscure) of these entities are in northern Virginia, the sixth and the seventh are in D.C., and the eighth is in Elgin, Ill. Moscow State is in Russia.
Setting aside Moscow State (which I think I would have dropped from my resume were I in his shoes), that's eight institutions that could have said "sure, we accept VUST transfer students."
But at least six of them have not made that statement. In addition, he might have called upon Northeastern University in Boston and the University of Virginia, both of which gave him graduate degrees, to make a similar statement. So despite the president's ties to ten schools (not counting Moscow State), he has still not been able to come up with the third transfer letter. And so VUST cannot accept foreign students.
The State Council of Higher Education for Virginia (SCHEV), which has VUST on track to revoke its license, has given the institution until the end of December 2020 to secure candidate status with the Accrediting Commission of Career Schools and Colleges, otherwise SCHEV will resume the revocation process. VUST agreed to a consent decree with this provision on November 22, 2019.
In the first three years of its existence VUST failed to secure candidate status with any accrediting agency.
I tried many times over the past two weeks to talk with someone at VUST to confirm the fact that they do not take foreign students, but VUST does not answer the phone; a message indicates that they will call back, but I did not use it. Earlier, around the holidays, a male who spoke unintelligible English answered the phone angrily, but did not answer the question, or if he tried to do so, I could not understand it.
It is not clear whether VUST operates as an ally of the Islamic Gulen cult, whose role in education we have documented in the past, but Karaburk certainly has strong Gulen ties; he secured his first U.S. degree from Virginia International University, then a Gulen-controlled institution, and worked there for years, as well as working for another Gulen-related entity. A few years ago, he sought to establish a Gulen-linked charter school in Loudoun County, Va., but was turned down by local authorities.
Meanwhile, VUST remains off the government's long list of institutions that may admit foreign students; the list is maintained by SEVP.
Other marginal colleges, however, do remain on the SEVP list, as we will report in a forthcoming post.