Another university bites the dust

Silicon Valley University shut down after running afoul of federal standards, leaving many students in limbo

 

Ritu Jha

 

 

“Why we should be victims of the system?”

That was a former student of Silicon Valley University in San Jose, California, which was shut down earlier this month after failing to meet requirements for proper accreditation.

The SVU student, who does not want to be named, said he graduated last December and went through the normal set of courses before earning a master’s degree in computer science. Though it cost him over $20,000 he was happy he had earned it but is worried now.

“If the school loses its accreditation it will show on my record and I will never be able to file for an H-1B visa under the master’s category [EB2],” said the student. He may have to spend more money to enroll in another college to maintain his status.

If he does file for an H-1B he has to go through a general quota, EB1. He asked what was the use of spending thousands of dollars when he could not show he earned a master’s degree from a US university.

“I am not just talking for myself but behalf of all other students,” he said in frustration. He said that it is the responsibility of the department of the US government issuing visas to ensure the university is accredited before allowing students to come in.

Jerry Shiao, founder Silicon Valley University.

Founded by Jerry Shiao, SVU was established in 1997 and offered a master’s degree in computer science and a master’s in business administration.

Immigration and Customs Enforcement spokesperson Carissa Cutrel told indica that through March 26, 2018, SVU had enrolled 1,428 international students.

“I don’t have a breakdown of countries of origin for the students enrolled there,” she said when asked the number of South Asians affected.

Students and community organization says the majority of the students are from India.

Though the school was officially asked to shut down April 5, but it finally closed April 13.

A notice on the school website read, “Due to the loss of our accreditation from the Accrediting Council for Independent Colleges and Schools (ACICS), the Bureau for Private Postsecondary Education (BPPE) has notified Silicon Valley University not to conduct any classes or exams at this time.”

Until Friday ICE had not posted any formal information for students about what they could do. The ICE spokesperson told indica that its Student and Exchange Visitor Program would be issuing guidance to international students about their options.

Joyia Emard, spokesperson for the California Department of Consumer Affairs, told indica that when SVU lost their national accreditation from the ACICS, because it was registered with the BPPE, a wing of the California Department of Consumer Affairs, it automatically lost its accreditation there, too.

“They failed to turn in their financial report,” Emard said describing the problems at the department saw it, and added that BPPE has taken disciplinary action against the university and has filed a separate accusation.

Emard said the accusations include the lack of student details – name, address, website address, or telephone number – in its 2016 filing; and that it failed to maintain student transcripts. But what was particularly concerning apparently was the fact that the university maintained recruiters in Taiwan.

“Recruiting can be done only by staff, not by a recruiter,” Emard said.

Emard said the bureau started the investigation before the school lost its accreditation. The hearing is scheduled for June 18, 19 and 20.

Emard said she could not reveal what led to the investigation, only saying someone had confidentially informed the department of the university’s many problems last year.

According to The Chronicle, it was Venu Madhav Polimerasetty, a former SVU student who had earned a master’s degree in computer science (2011-2013), who filed a complaint against the university after finding it hard to get a full-time job. He allegedly compared the university to the Tri-Valley University, once described as a sham university by federal authorities and which was shut down in 2010.

According to Emard, BPPE could help students get their transcripts and address what they could do next. Staff of the department’s Office of Student Assistance and Relief (OSAR) are to meet with Silicon Valley University students on Monday, April 30 from 10:30 am – 12:30 pm at the Department of General Services: Alfred E Alquist Building in San Jose, California.

Emard asked student to visit http://www.osar.bppe.ca.gov/closures/silicon_valley_university.shtml  for event details. OSAR would assist the 31 local students and the many foreign students obtain refunds, transfer options, etc.

What happened with the SVU is not new. In 2010, Tri-Valley University was shut down after ICE agents discovered that while it was certified to admit 30 foreign students in 2009, it had 1,555 foreign students, in 2010 and were distributing Curricular Practical Training (CPT) and Optional Practical Training (OPT) employment authorization from day one at school in exchange of fees.

In 2010, the ICE went after Stratford University in Virginia. The university had offered more OPT extensions than all the Ivy League schools combined, according to Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley.

In a strong letter to Kirstjen Nielsen, the secretary of the US Department of Homeland Security, Senator Grassley wrote this March, “It appears that Stratford and many similar schools operate in large part as a way for foreign student to sign up for OPT and CPT.

He wrote that while many reputable colleges and universities enroll foreign students, dozens of questionable schools appear to be operating these “visa mills” that provide little or no educational benefit to those who pay tuition, instead of acting as surreptitious employment agencies for aliens seeking to work in the United States.

These institutions, also contribute disproportionately to the large and growing population of foreign students and exchange visitors – nearly 80,000 in 2016 – who overstay visas to remain in the United States without legal authorization. They also raise serious national security concerns, he said.

“I saw almost all (99.99 percent) students from India came here for one primary goal: Get a job and earn money in a short span. Once here, many visa mill students will take their chances and overstay, remaining for as long as possible to maximize profit,” Grassley said in the letter.

He has also pointed to another Silicon Valley-based university with thousands of Indian students – Northwestern Polytechnic University (NPU).

The letter claimed that NPU has a long history of suspect behavior, and pointed out that many of its students were turned away by Customs and Border Patrol officials at ports of entry in 2015 soon after a whistleblower made a complaint the year before.

At press time, ACICS had not responded to communications from indica.

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