Never Underestimate the Wiles of Visa Mill Operators

By David North on September 21, 2017

Two marginal educational facilities with foreign students, in two different states and each apparently endangered by government regulators, have either postponed or eluded efforts to close or limit their activities by finding new owners.

We know much more about the self-preservation attempts of the American College of Commerce and Technology, in Falls Church, Va., than about the more or less parallel moves of Spencerian College in Louisville, Ky.

Both schools were among the 55 compromised colleges described in a recently released report by the Center for Immigration Studies. Both institutions are currently listed as eligible to issue the paper needed to secure an F-1 visa by a sleepy arm of the Department of Homeland Security; but despite that, neither is currently accepting foreign students. Both were accredited only by the now de-recognized Accrediting Council of Independent Schools and Colleges (ACICS), as noted in the CIS report.

In the case of ACCT, it flunked — after our report was published — even its ACICS accreditation, which is the rough equivalent of being one of the handful of students failing the most notorious gut course available on campus.

On September 21, weeks after the ACICS decision to terminate accreditation, this message was still on the school's website:

ACCT is accredited by the Accrediting Council for Independent Colleges and Schools (ACICS). ACCT is currently under an ACICS Show-Cause Directive.

As we reported earlier, ACCT was facing a staff proposal that the State Council on Higher Education for Virginia (SCHEV) should terminate its license. The recommendation was made after an extensive investigation, and after various appeals mechanisms had been exhausted.

However, early this week the president and major shareholder in the little school, Dr. William Schipper, arranged a sale of either the college or of the college's holding company. It is not clear which entity was for sale, or who is buying the school, or the terms of the sale, but his lawyer's statement about the sale to the Council at a meeting in Norfolk, Va., caused the Council to pass the following resolution on Tuesday, as we learned through an FOIA request:


WHEREAS the Virginia Administrative Code states that certification is not transferable and that upon change of ownership the new owner has 45 days to apply for certification,

BE IT RESOLVED that the State Council of Higher Education for Virginia defers action on ACCT's certification status pending submission and review of a certification application from the new owner.

So the new owners of ACCT will have 45 days to file a new application, and the decision-making process will begin again. Presumably one factor will be a determination of whether the sale is a genuine one.

In the meantime, the school will continue to operate under its old license, which means that it can accept no new students, as it has been unable to do so since May 1. ACCT can continue to teach its current students (about 93 percent alien) and can continue to collect tuition and fees from them, but will be pressed economically, as the arrival of new students is a major factor in the budgets of such schools.

Meanwhile, the Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP), the segment of DHS in charge of foreign students, has not taken any action against the school, nor has it removed the school from the list used by the State Department and others to determine if a school is eligible to accept foreign students. SEVP routinely lists what we call "ghost colleges" though the schools no longer accept foreign students.

Spencerian College of Louisville, Ky., is on the ghost college list. The Center for Immigration Studies, using the Freedom of Information Act program regarding another aspect of aliens and education, the Optional Practical Training (OPT) scheme, asked the Department of Homeland Security about the use of that program in the 55 schools we were studying, including Spencerian. (There will be a posting on this subject next week.)

The DHS listing, which we got with unusual speed, showed Spencerian College, which focuses on medical vocations, as having "withdrawn", with no explanation of what that meant. I called the school's admissions office to ask if it was accepting foreign students and was told "not now, but we will come January when our school will be sold to Sullivan University."

I am not sure why Spencerian is not accepting foreign students, but whatever the obstacle is, it apparently will be removed by its sale to Sullivan. The latter is a for-profit institution, also located in Louisville. Sullivan is accredited by an accrediting agency recognized by the U.S. Department of Education.

Why new ownership of a college relates to its licensing is a mystery to me. An automobile, at least in Virginia, must pass safety inspection every year, and the transfer of ownership does not postpone that obligation.

Incidentally, some states require colleges to be accredited by some appropriate entity; the federal government does not make that a requirement for the schools it allows to admit foreign students, with the exception of English as a Second Language schools. Perhaps Congress will change that.