We have previously reported on the demise of the Accrediting Council on Independent Colleges and Schools (ACICS), the Washington-based entity that allowed the continued operation of a bunch of marginal educational institutions that majored in foreign students.
It now turns out that while the once ACICS-credentialed schools have a year (from August) to find a new accreditor acceptable to the U.S. Department of Education, alien students that stay with the ACICS-approved schools have lost some substantial benefits as of August 19 of this year.
For example, a degree from one of these institutions dated after August 19 cannot be used to qualify an alien Optional Practical Training alumnus for the 24-month extra period of federally subsidized employment in the STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) part of that program. Nor can such a degree be used to qualify in the master’s degree part of the H-1B program. Since many of these schools offer master's degrees in STEM subjects, to secure exactly these benefits for their students, this is a significant change.
Further, alien English-language students cannot use the schools that have lost accreditation because of ACICS to remain in legal status. This is the case because, for years, ESL students have had to attend fully accredited institutions, while alien students of other disciplines did not need to attend accredited schools. That educational institutions can cause the admission of alien students without accreditation is a woeful hole in our immigration system.
USCIS waited more than nine weeks after the U.S. Department of Education torpedoed ACICS to issue a press release on the consequences of that action on alien students.
The dying ACICS, on the other hand, has commendably reproduced the government’s press release on its own website.
One educational institution that depended on ACICS accreditation is Fairfax University of America (formerly Virginia International University). It once had more than a thousand students. Its most recent report shows an increase in the student body – from 17 last year to 18 this year.
Another nearby ACICS-approved school – the for-profit Stratford University – went out of business shortly after the Department of Education acted on ACICS.