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Investigation exposes another US visa mill

A fraudulent university in California has been exposed for manipulating grades, profiting from fee-paying students, and misleading an accreditation body.

The number of active foreign visa students grew in 2014 from 1,634 to 3,728

In an investigation by Buzzfeed News, Northwestern Polytechnic University was exposed as a visa mill with almost an entire student body coming from overseas.

“NPU looks very different than the handful of unaccredited, for-profit visa mills that were exposed and shut down after a government crackdown in 2011,” the article says.

“Students who did not earn a passing grade would get a W, meaning they had been withdrawn from the course at the last moment”

“It has far more students, and they do attend classes with teachers. Some of its students say they got valuable educations.”

But according to the investigation, NPU has generated millions of dollars in tuition revenue, enrolling 99% of its students from overseas.

It found that in 2014, the school spent almost $1.7 million to recruit students through education consultants in Hyderabad, Mumbai, and other Indian cities, marking a 1,400% increase from the year before.

As a result, the number of active foreign visa students grew that year from 1,634 to 3,728, according to Immigration and Customs Enforcement data.

The in-depth investigation also found that the university inflated grades to prevent foreign student GPAs from falling.

Internal emails from 2014 acquired by Buzzfeed show that the school adopted grade tampering as a university-wide policy.

“Instead of receiving an F (or for graduate students, a D- or D), students who did not earn a passing grade would get a W, meaning they had been withdrawn from the course at the last moment,” the article says.

“Their GPA would be saved, and so, potentially, would their visa.”

To recruit students, NPU relied heavily on its accreditation from the Accrediting Council for Independent Colleges and Schools, the former accreditors of Corinthian Colleges, which was closed in 2014.

However, during accreditation inspections, the university staged a façade which included the administration providing class material to professors.

Former members of staff also told Buzzfeed that students were fed lines on what to say to inspectors and that outside help was often brought in to fill staff positions.

Despite a whistleblowing letter to ACICS detailing the extent of the bad practice taking place at the university, it maintained the institution’s accreditation.

In a statement to Buzzfeed, the accreditation body expressed its concerns surrounding the allegations against NPU.

“ACICS takes quality assurance of its accredited institutions seriously, and will condition or withdraw accreditation from schools that fail to comply with Council standards, or with local, state or federal laws,” it said.

However, last week the Department of Education’s National Advisory Committee on Institutional Quality and Integrity, which evaluates accreditors, voted 10-3 to revoke ACICS’s power to accredit schools.

The decision came after a report published by the Department of Education on ACICS recommended rejecting the “agency’s petition for renewal of recognition, and withdraw the agency’s recognition”, identifying that the accredition body routinely failed to adequately police schools under its oversight, allowing many institutions to deceive and defraud students.

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