We all know about professors emeritus; they retain both their academic ranks and their ties to the university, and in most cases are still covered with benefits; sometimes they keep their on-campus offices and may, if they so choose, teach a class or two.
Or maybe it should be professors emeriti. These people, if you will, are, appropriately, resting on their laurels.
In a very different part of higher education there are the visa mills; educational institutions, making hay out of the immigration law, by admitting, but barely educating, aliens who are much more interested in the work permits that come with their F-1 visas as opposed to the schooling they are supposed to receive.
Recently we have recognized that there may be such a thing as a visa mill emeritus: Welcome to Northwestern Polytechnic University (NPU) in Fremont, Calif.
It is still recognized as a university, at least in some circles; it has been accredited, if by the skin of its teeth; and it retains its state-issued license to operate and its federally granted permission to create visas for foreign students. But it has only a handful of students, perhaps no more than 50, compared to enrollments in the thousands in prior years. (The estimate of 50 is based on the 2018 tuition receipts, $873,462, and the tuition charges as published on the NPU website.)
How does such a place continue to function?
The answer is that it made so much money in its glory days, and subsequently handled it well enough in a booming national economy that it can continue to operate in a hibernated way, and can continue to pay its president more than $430,000 a year to manage what would have been a two-room school in the frontier days.
NPU's most recent Form 990 report to the IRS showed that it has more than $202 million in assets, and from the data in the document it is clear that it could keep operating at current levels for 31 years — that is, through the year 2051 — without a penny's income from tuition, dividends, interest, gifts, or grants.
Let's put that $200 million surplus in context. I happen to live in a well-managed suburb of Washington, D.C., Arlington County, Va. It has a population of about 236,000, and over the years has accumulated a partially unacknowledged surplus of a bit over $200 million; a taxpayer's association thinks that is too much, and that property taxes should be reduced; the county's elected leaders see the surplus as a useful rainy-day fund.
In any case it is about $1,000 per resident.
NPU, on the other hand has a surplus of about $4 million per student.
Why the IRS continues to regard this place as a 501(c)(3) charity mystifies, but then the IRS is not interested in immigration matters and has been starved for years by an administration that is not enthusiastic about collecting taxes.
Will the State of California notice? Will Homeland Security continue to allow the admission of foreign students to this place? I suspect that NPU will rest on its non-laurels for a long time to come.