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USA takes further step in accreditation law

While the US industry acclimatises to the new accreditation environment for English language programmes, new moves are being made to ensure accreditation of universities and colleges is also satisfactory. The US House of Representatives passed a bill this week to ensure HE institutions enrolling international students have regional or national accreditation, which due to a loophole was not previously required .

"Weaknesses in monitoring and oversight of SEVP-certified schools contribute to security and fraud vulnerabilities"

This is in light of serious abuse of the existing accreditation framework by institutions such as Tri-Valley University – which was exposed by The Chronicle of Higher Education as a sham university, enabling access into the USA for students who either had ill intentions or were oblivious to its illegality.

Once passed through the US Senate, the bill would mean all HE institutions must have their own accreditation – and a three-year window by which to comply

In the case of Tri-Valley, the institution’s claims that its credits were accepted by other accredited colleges – which meant it did not need to secure its own accreditation – were not checked, enabling it to continue operating and accepting international students.

Bill HR-3120, if passed through the US Senate, would stamp out such cases by requiring all HE institutions to have their own accreditation. Institutions would have a three-year window in which to comply.

English language teaching operations have faced a similar situation since the Accreditation of English Language Training Programs Act came into force in 2010. All institutions had to apply for accreditation via either ACCET or CEA by last December 2011, with two years to become compliant.

Earlier this year, there had been a panic within the sector when it became clear that there was confusion over whether on-campus IEPs, operating under the umbrella accreditation of their host institution, were required to seek additional accreditation or not – although the situation has been largely resolved, with FAQs now posted online by the Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP).

The passage of bill HR-3120 follows calls for such action only weeks ago, when a Government Accountability Office (GAO) report identified that “weaknesses in monitoring and oversight of SEVP-certified schools contribute to security and fraud vulnerabilities”.

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