It Looks Like Visa Mill History Is About to Repeat Itself in Northern Virginia

By David North on June 23, 2017

Once again it looks like a highly questionable educational institution in Northern Virginia is about to be closed down — it is said to provide lots of nonimmigrant visas and not much education — and the closing will not be forced by the federal agency that is supposed to handle such things, the Department of Homeland Security.

The first time this happened was a couple of years ago when a small state agency, the State Council on Higher Education in Virginia (SCHEV), working with a non-illustrious, non-public accreditation entity, the Accrediting Council for Independent Colleges and Schools (ACICS), closed down a dismal little school called the University of Northern Virginia that had been abusing the immigration law for years. (More on ACICS later.)

UNV handed out migrant work permits to perhaps thousands of aliens, but seemed to have no more than four classrooms when I visited the tiny "campus" before it was closed.

Investigators from Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), a unit of DHS, raided the place in 2011, but did not terminate its operation. But little SCHEV did the job, as this website and the Chronicle of Higher Education reported in 2013.

That was then. The most recent development is that an entity somewhat similar to UNV, the American College of Commerce and Technology (ACCT), 5.6 miles away in Falls Church, Va., has been told by SCHEV to cease accepting students until its status can be determined. Both locations are within a 20-minute drive of the offices of the ICE unit supervising schools for foreign students, the Student and Exchange Visitor Program, in Arlington, Va. It's like counterfeiting $100 bills six miles from the Bureau of Engraving and Printing.)

That, frankly drastic, order — no more admissions, at least temporarily — was effective May 1. These marginal colleges deal with a lot of turnover in their foreign student populations and we understand that the SCHEV order has already indirectly caused two reductions in pay for the ACCT staff, one after the other.

ACCT is a for-profit organization; one of its financial reports, which we secured from SCHEV, has the word "interest" spelled in four different ways in five lines of type and is otherwise shot through with errors, as we reported previously.




An unretouched portion of the annual financial report, on file with the State of Virginia, of the DHS-licensed American College of Commerce and Technology, Falls Church, Va.


One of the ironies in both the UNV and ACCT cases is the role played by ACICS. This long-established arm of the for-profit education business has been repeatedly criticized for being too lenient on the for-profit schools it accredits. As a result of years of controversy, in December 2016 former Secretary of Education John B. King Jr. de-recognized ACICS, meaning that institutions formerly approved by that entity need to secure approval from some other accrediting organization that is acceptable to the government.

In a strange quirk, however, a university does not need such an accreditation in order to be licensed by the Department of Homeland Security to accept foreign students, but that accreditation is needed to provide some benefits to foreign students.

So one branch of our government was saying that ACICS was too lenient to be trusted, and in the meantime even ACICS would not accredit UNV, and this led to its termination by the state agency (but not immediately by ICE). Being rejected by ACICS must be the nadir in the education business.

ACICS, which is still alive and fighting its de-recognition in the federal courts, meanwhile has taken negative steps against ACCT that do not bode well for the little school that occupies part of an office building in the DC suburbs. Some years ago it denied accreditation to ACCT, and then reversed itself. Currently it has issued a show cause order to ACCT, demanding substantial and well-documented change or else it will cancel the current accreditation, for whatever that is worth.

Where does this leave ACCT?

The college cannot accept new students, the lifeblood of the organization, at least for the time being, because of the SCHEV ruling. Its lack of accreditation by a currently accepted accreditation agency means that it cannot provide English as a Second Language training to foreign students, nor can its STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) graduates use those degrees to secure the much desired two-year additional work permit through the Optional Practical Training Program (OPT), as we explained in an earlier blog.

Both SCHEV and ACICS have summer meetings (July and August respectively) in which further action vis-a-vis ACCT is on their separate agendas. Will ACCT be still with us in the fall? We will see.

In the meantime, though we gather from a non-governmental source that ICE investigators have shown some interest in the operation, that agency has remained silent. Just as it was for years regarding the University of Northern Virginia.