Some Minor Good News on Visa Mills — Accrediting Official Leaves Job

By David North on May 2, 2016

One must search with a magnifying glass, but sometimes there is good news on the immigration front. Here is an example.

As background: Some schools that have been charged with being visa mills — letting illegal aliens into the country in return for tuition payments — have been accredited by an organization essentially licensed by the U.S. Department of Education to be an accreditor. This entity is the Accrediting Council for Independent Colleges and Schools (ACICS).

There are three tidbits of good news on this score:

  1. An arm of the Education Department is reviewing the ACICS license to accredit at a meeting in June;
  2. 12 state attorneys general, all Democrats, have urged the department to oppose the renewal; and
  3. In the face of the developments just mentioned, the president of ACICS has resigned.

ACICS is in trouble because it has given accreditation to lots of bad schools, notably a number of for-profit ones, including, to quote the AGs:

ACICS' most spectacular failure was its decision to extend accreditation to several dozen schools operated by Corinthian Colleges. Corinthian's practices of offering extremely expensive degrees of little value to low-income students has been the target of more than twenty state and federal law enforcement agencies.

Such schools often gobble up Pell Grants and Veterans Administration funding, but provide little to the students concerned. In other cases, substantial student loan indebtedness occurs.

Meanwhile, back on the immigration front, ACICS has accredited Herguan College of Sunnydale, Calif., for its graduate programs. Herguan's former owner and CEO, Jerry Wang is now in a federal prison for immigration fraud, as we reported earlier.

Two other schools in the Bay Area that major in Indian foreign "students," Silicon Valley University and Northwestern Polytechnic University, also are accredited by ACICS. The venerable Times of India, however, stated that they were "massive academic rip-offs."

On the East Coast, the tiny American College of Commerce and Technology (ACCT) has also been accredited by the ever-obliging ACICS. ACCT, which is located in a modest office building in the D.C. suburbs (Falls Church, Va.), recently submitted a financial report to the State of Virginia that managed, in the course of five lines of type, to spell the word "interest" four different ways. Some of the financial concepts used in this report were, to say the least, creative, as we noted earlier.

Albert Gray was the president of ACICS until earlier this month, when he resigned, according to a scathing account of that organization by Annie Waldman published by Pro Publica. The article did not provide a reason for Gray's departure, but it did report that this is what he heard from Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) at a June Senate hearing:

How many federal and state agencies need to file lawsuits against one of your colleges before your organization takes a second look at whether that school should be eligible for accreditation, and most importantly, federal money?

Should ACICS be forced out of the picture it would have a more immediate impact on the Corinthians than on the Herguans; without accreditation the Corinthians and other marginal private-for-profit schools would lose the all-important access to federal grant programs.

Loss of the accreditation certainly would not help the Herguan-like institutions, but it would not automatically terminate the ability of such schools to issue the I-20 documents, setting in motion student visas for aliens. This is because, while ACICS has low standards for it accreditations, the Department of Homeland Security has no standards whatsoever. It is perfectly happy to let unaccredited institutions issue the I-20s, and there are hundreds of them.

There is an exception to that statement. Congress will no longer let DHS license flight schools without the approval of the Federal Aviation Administration, but it took the department years to carry out that post-9/11 mandate.

The Center for Immigration Studies plans to add its voice to those of the attorneys general at a June meeting being held by the Department of Education.