The for-profit college was said to have maintained a "sex dungeon"

A third U.S. university with a surplus of Indians students has imploded in less than three years, it has emerged this week, when Virginia’s State Council for Higher Education (SCHEV) shuttered the University of Northern Virginia (UNVA) after the latter failed to regain the accreditation that it lost in 2008.

UNVA, a for-profit college that used to be run by a Chancellor said to have maintained a “sex dungeon,” was raided by the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) in 2011. Even before that episode, which led to the resignation of disgraced university boss David Lee, UNVA lost its accreditation with the Accrediting Council for Independent Colleges and Schools (ACICS) in 2008.

In August 2012 the fate of more than 400 Indian students at Herguan University in Sunnyvale, California, similarly hung in the balance after authorities brought charges of visa fraud against its CEO, Jerry Wang. In January 2011 Tri-Valley University (TVU) in Pleasanton, California, was closed and left 1,500 or so Indian students on its rolls facing the prospect of deportation, an uncertain academic future and, in some cases, the indignity of wearing ankle radio tags.

Although UNVA, which currently has around 500 students, was warned that under state rules it would have to become a candidate for accreditation with an accrediting body recognised by the U.S. Department of Education (USED) within three years (by 2011), and fully accredited within six years (by 2014), it failed to adhere even to the conditions of a time-extension for the candidacy, until June 1, 2013.

Thus on July 16 SCHEV issued a notice in which it confirmed that it would revoking UNVA’s Certificate “ effective immediately,” and that UNVA’s owners, board and senior management were required to make arrangements immediately for the transfer of student records either to SCHEV or to another institution of postsecondary education.

The current status is that SCHEV staff are authorised to review and approve any plan proposed by UNVA for the transfer of student records, the notice added, emphasising that UNVA had already been informed that it was required to “cease and desist operations and to close immediately.”

A key difference between the case of UNVA on the one hand and TVU and Herguan on the other is that the closure of UNVA has been implemented by the state of Virginia and not ICE. As explained by the law office of Sheela Murthy, an immigration specialist in Baltimore, Maryland, the TVU shutdown by ICE meant that that institution’s student records, technically known as the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS) records, “were terminated by ICE without warning.”

However the Murthy firm added, ICE does not appear to have taken any action with regard to the UNVA SEVIS records at the moment – nor indeed has ICE provided any guidance to the affected students – but it seems “highly likely that, sooner or later, ICE will terminate all UNVA SEVIS records.”

This begs the question of what options students face, either in terms of getting their records transferred to another school or returning home and re-applying to another university for a fresh student visa. In the case of TVU, the ICE shutdown meant that the nearly-2000 students were “out of status,” or had their visa status voided.

During the TVU crisis many of the students received, as a result of being out of status, a Notice to Appear (NTA). If ICE decides to follow up on the actions of SCHEV and shut down UNVA’s SEVIS records, experts have warned that students should not ever consider leaving the U.S., because then they would be automatically considered to be “self-deported,” following which a minimum five-year ban from re-entering the U.S. would apply.

In the TVU scenario, Attorney Murthy told The Hindu students given NTAs could request voluntary departure or if no notice had been served simply leave the country voluntarily, and in both cases the entry ban would not apply and a new F-1 visa could be obtained. For students who are in a position to seek admission at another school that would be an option as long as authorities are transfer their immigration status over to the new institution.

Echoing that advice the firm posted this advice on its website: “When SCHEV issued an order to UNVA to "cease and desist" its operations, it also obligated the school to either transfer its student records to SCHEV, or arrange to transfer the records to another institution of post-secondary education. It is unclear at this time if this record transfer has been completed. Students in F-1 status nonetheless should proactively try to avoid status problems by taking action immediately to remain in valid status.”

In addition to enrolled students at UNVA, students currently employed under the university’s optional practical training (OPT) scheme are said to be in jeopardy owing to the sudden shutdown, and experts advise that these students too should “act quickly to resolve this issue.”

Yet it seems there may be some pitfalls associated with a hasty inter-university transfer too. While a Facebook page for UNVA students announced that one institution, the American College of Commerce and Technology (ACCT), would accept all UNVA students, it was pointed out by numerous other reports that ACCT itself is unaccredited, even if it currently has a certificate to operate from SCHEV.