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SEVP quells IEP accreditation fears, USA

The Student Exchange and Visitor Programme (SEVP) arm of US government has quelled fears about the accreditation of US “combined IEPs” – intensive English language programmes operating from university campuses – by providing a detailed list of FAQs online.

"Combined IEPs" under the umbrella accreditation of a university or college are exempt from seeking separate accreditation

Its reaching out to the sector to calm concerns that on-campus IEPs would be unable to issue I-20s (required for visa issuance) because of an accreditation loophole.

The gesture comes after a few months of uncertainty for on-campus IEPs over what was required of them by the implementation of the new Accreditation of English Language Training Programs Act, 2010, as uncovered by The PIE News in May.

Posted on the Study in the States website, SEVP’s FAQs clear up some key concerns. Firstly they reiterate that “Combined IEPs” under the umbrella accreditation of a university or college are exempt from seeking separate accreditation to enroll foreign students, as long as that accreditation is government-approved, covers ESL programmes and in date.

And they confirm the difference between combined and stand-alone IEPs – a source of some confusion for schools.

Detail of how to provide evidence of accreditation is provided, and in a further olive branch to the sector, SEVP is inviting feedback on the FAQs up until July 13, to ensure everyone is clear on the issues.

Combined IEPs across the country spoke out last April, after a SEVP memo announced schools would be subject to ad hoc “out of cycle” reviews for which they would have to provide separate evidence of their accreditation within 30 days.

Fears over regional accreditation bodies not providing the necessary information required by SEVP on time were also abating

In a memo last week, SEVP acknowledged that the act had been complex to enforce and said it had listened to feedback from the academic community. A spokesperson for SEVP also urged readers of The PIE News to follow the Facebook and Twitter accounts of Study in the States to receive notifications of any updates to the FAQs.

AAIEP, which has been fighting for clearer guidelines from SEVP, said the FAQs had gone a long way in clearing up the problems. Patricia Juza, VP for Advocacy at AAIEP, added that fears over regional accreditation bodies not providing the necessary information required by SEVP on time were also abating. “They have been extremely supportive by providing clear and detailed information,” she said.

However, she said reservations in other areas remained, such as the long wait periods for adjudications (up to 9 months) and the lack of guidance for newly opening schools wishing to enrol international students.

“This isn’t a scenario that was covered specifically in the original legislation, but AAIEP members are concerned that the law not prevent new stand-alone schools or branch campuses from opening. It’s a question that we will pose to SEVP.”

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