US varsity with hundreds of Indian students under scanner (Lead)

July 29th, 2011 - 6:53 pm ICT by IANS  

Washington/New Delhi, July 29 (IANS) Another US educational institution with hundreds of Indian students has come under the scanner with dozens of agents raiding offices at the University of Northern Virginia. This prompted the US embassy in New Delhi to urge prospective Indian students to thoroughly research educational institutes based in US.

Based in Annandale, a Washington suburb, it is an unaccredited, for-profit private university that calls itself the “most popular American university for students from India”.

Some 2,400 students of which 90 percent are from India, mostly from Andhra Pradesh, are registered at three locations in northern Virginia.

Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents Thursday removed boxes of documents from a building on Little River Turnpike where the university leases two suites.

However, unlike in the case of “sham” Tri-Valley University in California, US authorities have assured that the interests of Indian students would be protected.

Given the experience of TVU, the focus of investigations here is not the students, but the school, officials said making it clear that there would be no arrest, detention or electronic monitoring of students.

They also said that the university would not be immediately shut down as it has been given a months’ notice to explain.

The students have three options: continue at the university while it functions, seek transfer to another university or seek voluntary return to India.

The university temporarily can’t accept any foreign students, reads a notice posted on the door of the offices. UNVA students must leave the country immediately if they are unable “to continue to attend classes and maintain their active status in a manner required by federal government regulations”, the notice reads.

“Today, officials from ICE’s Student and Exchange Visitor Programme (SEVP) served University of Northern Virginia officials with a Notice of Intent to Withdraw (NOIW) UNVA’s authorization to admit foreign students,” ICE spokeswoman Cori W. Bassett said in a statement.

The school was told it can no longer participate in that programme, but no specific reason was disclosed.

No charges have been filed nor people arrested but the school is being investigated to see whether it conforms to federal regulations for the administration of student visas. The school is not closed, and students can attend classes.

If the investigation discovers the school improperly handled student visas, the school could face severe penalties.

In New Delhi, the US embassy urged prospective Indian students to thoroughly research educational institute based in US before taking admission in a bid to prevent any fraud.

“The US government urges all prospective students to fully research their chosen educational institutes and have a firm grasp of what is and is not permitted under a student visa,” a statement released by the embassy here said.

“All students must be aware that lack of physical attendance at classes (taking only online courses is not acceptable), failure to maintain a full course load and unauthorized employment will result in an immediate violation of status,” the statement added.

According to the embassy, the number of Indian students who have applied for visas to study in US increased by 20 percent over the same period last year.

It went on to say that violating the terms of a visa can result in deportation, arrest and even a bar on future travel to the country.

According to the embassy, over 100,000 Indian students are currently studying at universities across the US, and thousands more will join them in the coming academic year.

(Arun Kumar can be contacted at arun.kumar@ians.in)

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