A visa scam at Tri Valley University in California, that has affected hundreds of Indian students, is just the tip of an iceberg and a large number of such institutes exist in the US, a probe report here has said.
"Other colleges-most of them unaccredited-exploit byzantine federal regulations, enrolling almost exclusively foreign students and charging them upward of $3,000 for a chance to work legally in the US," said the report released by Chronicle of Higher Education.
Such educational institute flourish in California and Virginia, where regulations are lax, and many of their practises - for instance, holding some classes on only three weekends per semester - are unconventional, to say the least, the report added.
"These colleges usher in thousands of foreign students and generate millions of dollars in profits because they have the power, bestowed by the US government, to help students get visas," it said, adding while these institutions are well-known among Indian students looking to work full time, they have managed to go mostly unnoticed in the US.
In more than a dozen interviews to Chronicle, students at these institutions say that an American degree, any American degree, will help them get a better job or earn a promotion back home, the report said.
"They say they choose these unaccredited colleges for their flexibility, their low cost, academic quality and because of the recommendations of other students from their home region. In online forums, students are more blunt: What they actually talk about is who will let them work 'from Day 1'," it said.
According to the report, Homeland-security officials say they are not blind to the existence of other Tri-Valleys, although they wouldn't comment on, or even confirm, current investigations.
"They concede that regulations governing foreign-student employment are vulnerable to exploitation. These areas are ripe for abuse," said a top administrator with Immigration and Customs Enforcement, which monitors 10,300 schools and colleges that grant visa documents.
"We look very closely," it said. "Officials say that the agency is doing the best it can, given its resources and authority. An increase in Sevis fees - the system is entirely self-financed - will support the creation of a new enforcement unit focused solely on school and college violations and allow for the creation of a 60-person team of regionally based liaisons to act as contacts and more closely monitor colleges on the ground," the report said.
According to a federal complaint filed in a California court in January, the TVU had helped foreign nationals, mostly Indians, illegally acquire immigration status.
The university is said to have 1,555 students. As many as 95 per cent of these students are Indian nationals. The university was closed on charges of massive visa fraud.