For Some Foreign Students, Education Isn’t the Goal

Center for Immigration Studies, December 30, 2015

The Center for Immigration Studies has looked at the case of two U.S. universities where receiving an education is apparently secondary to providing immigration benefits for foreign students.

These visa mills, both in the San Francisco Bay Area, draw attention to how the minimal scrutiny DHS provides to lower-level educational institutions leads to tens of thousands of foreign nationals entering the country.

The two educational institutions, Silicon Valley University (SVU), and Northwestern Polytechnic University (NPU), are operated predominately by Chinese-Americans and attended by several thousand students, about 70 percent of them from just two states in southern India. Several of the students travelling to these schools have been turned away by immigration officials or deported and even more have been banned from taking flights to the U.S., as India’s ministry of external affairs waits for the U.S. government’s explanation for the denial of entries.

The two institutions are accredited by the Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP), part of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), to teach foreign students. This DHS licensing allows the schools to issue the paperwork (called I-20 forms) that allow the students to receive F-1 foreign student visas from U.S. consulates in India.

David North, a fellow with the Center and author of the articles, said, “Visa mills are a problem in the U.S. and often do not receive the priority they should at DHS. The agency is slow to discover the fraud, slow to shut them down, and often does not deport the F-1 students who are often clearly and purposely purchasing entry to the country and not an education. In this case, DHS appears to have identified the problem and acted appropriately.”

View North’s two articles here and here.

NPU has an almost inconceivable profit margin of 75 percent, with a profit of close to $30 million on revenue of $40 million. But interestingly only 14.7 percent of gross revenue was spent on salaries and benefits in 2014, when most schools are at or over 50 percent, due to the cost of faculty necessary to operate a serious educational institution.

The quality of the education offered may also be reflected in the mission statement on NPU’s 2014 IRS tax return (the Form 990), which contains misspellings of words as basic as “undergraduate” and “graduate.” NPU also misspelled its own name, with “Polythechnic”, “Polythcnic”, and “Polytechic” all making appearances in the tax return.

Minimal scrutiny has allowed many institutions to bring in thousands of students who receive a visa, but little or no education. Previous cases like this have been exposed in the Bay Area; ICE closed Tri-Valley University, and the owner and former CEO of another institution, Herguan University, was sent to jail for immigration fraud. Yet another Chinese-run, Indian-attended visa mill, the University of Northern Virginia, was closed by state authorities in 2013 and subsequently de-listed by the slow-moving SEVP.

DHS has not elaborated on their investigation of NPU and SVU. But the media in India have been reporting on this story, which could impact the reputation of other students from India who study diligently in the U.S. at serious educational institutions. One Indian news report described the two schools as “a massive academic rip-off . . . diploma mills that are acting as turnstiles for hopeful immigrants.”

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