THE NATIONAL REVIEW: Fake colleges draw scrutiny of federal investigators

Career College Central Summary:

  • From her hometown in India in 2010, Bhanu Challa stated she had no purpose to doubt that Tri-Valley University was a reputable American college exactly where she could pursue a master’s degree. Its site featured smiling students in caps and gowns and promised a leafy campus in a San Francisco Bay suburb.
  • Months later, her hands have been in cuffs as federal investigators questioned her motives for being in the U.S. Authorities told her that Tri-Valley was a sham school. It was selling documents that permitted foreigners to receive U.S. student visas, and in some circumstances operate in the country, though offering almost no instruction, according to federal investigators.
  • “I was blank, entirely blank … ” she said, recalling her shock. “I didn’t know what to do, who I could approach.”
  • Tri-Valley is amongst at least half a dozen schools shut down or raided by federal authorities in recent years more than allegations of immigration fraud. Like Tri-Valley, they had obtained permission from U.S. immigration officials to admit foreign students.
  • But most presented tiny or no instruction or didn’t demand all students to attend classes, instead exploiting the student visa program for profit, investigators said.
  • “If there’s a way to make a buck, some people will do it,” stated Brian Smeltzer, chief of the Counterterrorism and Criminal Exploitation Unit of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations.
  • Final year alone, Smeltzer said, his office flagged about 150 of the roughly 9,000 schools certified to accept foreign students for investigation as prospective visa mills.
  • Meltzer mentioned several of the schools the agency investigates are in California, which has the highest quantity of foreign students and schools certified to accept them. New York has the second most.
  • Government watchdogs say the recent visa fraud situations have exposed gaps in ICE’s oversight of schools that admit foreign students – a difficulty the agency says is becoming corrected. And authorities say the scams hurt the reputation of the U.S. larger education program, which at the moment enrolls about 900,000 foreign students.
  • “If anyone has any illusions there was one particular just poor apple, that is not the case,” stated Barmak Nassirian, director of federal policy analysis with the American Association of State Colleges and Universities. “There are lots of them out there.”
  • At California Union University in Fullerton, owner Samuel Chai Cho Oh staged phony graduation ceremonies as part of a visa scheme, according to immigration officials. He pleaded guilty to visa fraud and dollars laundering and was sentenced to a year in prison in 2011.

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