New York: Silicon Valley University, San Jose, and Northwestern Polytechnic University, Fremont -- the two Bay Area higher education institutions that are embroiled in controversy over "scrutiny" by the U.S. government have reacted to media reports by posting alerts on their home pages for prospective students. On 21 December, acting on information from the US Customs and Border Protection Agency, Air India stopped 19 students from boarding its Hyderabad - San Francisco flight.
The Virginia-based Accrediting Council for Independent Colleges and Schools has confirmed to Firstpost that Silicon Valley University was indeed accredited in 2003 after a "lengthy and elaborate due diligence." "Their accreditation is still active, but that's only for the academic part" an ACICS official confirmed.
Even a cursory lookup of the SVC website has glaring gaps.
On their tuition and fees link are details about who to contact if "California residents who attend a private post-secondary institution" lose money "as a result of the school closing, failure to live up to its enrollment agreement."
The phone number given here (916) 574-7720 -- says it connects to the Bureau for Private Postsecondary Education, which deals with these issues of repayment. Firstpost called that number and here's where it led us: "Thankyou for contacting the California Board of Psychology...."
Even in the case of Northwestern Polytechnic University, the phone lines are all knotted up. Firstpost called each of their listed offices one by one and all of them had the same disconnect - Rang until it went into voicemail which asks you to record a message and then tells you that you can't record. That this happened with the Admissions office, the business office, the tuition and fees office and the administrative office all on the same weekday, during working hours, sure is odd.
Low cost, iffy admission procedures
Local media outlets in Bay Area have started digging into this story. The official line from the two colleges in question remains predictable — that it’s all good, but the comments section on the SVU website tells a different story. Reviews in the public domain zoom in on two themes for SVU: Low cost and iffy admission procedures.
Question marks over paperwork
This comment is the most recent one on the review list, pasted here verbatim: “Totally negative rating if it possible i have applied in this spring 2016 but the admission staff is so irresponsible playing games with the student careers and not issuing i20 in last 2 weeks of college and the staff are telling different answers when i called to them and i am requesting you people dont spoil your career by selecting this useless university there are so many nice and well good staff and universities are there kindly take my advice u can see in rating the worst rating and worst university.”
Anxiety over the mandatory paperwork is another theme that finds voice in comments from the student community about SVU.
"Absolutely false" reports
Northwestern Polytechnic strikes a more strident tone and claims the “news reports are absolutely false.”
On it’s home page, Silicon Valley University has what seems to be a hastily written out note to students with glaring grammatical errors like these — “Due to recent Paris attack and unseen terrorist activities”, “Official transcript and certificates that you used when you applying for SVU.”
Considering that some of the faculty listed on the website have Masters degrees from Ivy League colleges, the knee jerk tone of the home page alert sounds discordant from the start.
Silicon Valley University, Northwestern Polytechnic say rumors of immigration ... - San Jose Mercury News media… https://t.co/ooFCMcVOLF
— Bay Area watch (@BayAreawatch) December 22, 2015
How Air India stepped in
The national carrier asked its staff to not allow the 19 students to board its flight to San Francisco at Rajiv Gandhi International Airport in Hyderabad on Monday night.
Airport sources told The Indian Express that the 19 students had taken admission at Silicon Valley University in San Jose and Northwestern Polytechnic University at Fremont, California.offered to refund their tickets and also justified its move by stating that it received a communication from the US Customs and Border Protection Agency that two universities — Silicon Valley University and North Western Polytechnic College — are under scrutiny and their students who arrived in San Francisco were not allowed to enter the US.
“In the past, we have witnessed that students who secured admission in those institutions have been deported to India as soon as they land there. To avoid embarrassment to them and save their money, we prevented them from boarding the flight,” the official said on Tuesday.
The government-run airline is refunding the entire ticket cost to these students, the official added.
In a statement, Air India said they had on December 19 received a communication from the US Customs and Border Protection Agency that the two universities were under scrutiny and students who arrived in San Francisco were not allowed to enter the US and deported back to India.
“So far, 14 students who travelled on Air India flights to San Francisco have been deported. Students travel on a one-way ticket to the US and, in the event of deportation, incur huge expenditure to buy a ticket back to India on first available service. Further, seats are often not available on any airlines to travel back,” the statement said.
Considering the situation, students booked for travel to take admission to these universities are not being accepted on Air India flights.
The national carrier will start accepting students travelling to the US to join the two universities at no additional cost as soon as clearance is received from Air India’s US office for their travel, it added.
Meanwhile, one of the universities in question said on its website that “absolutely false” reports are being disseminated by certain media outlets and other groups that the institute has been blacklisted by the US government.
When contacted, an immigration official at the airport said that clearance for boarding a flight has to be given by the airline concerned through the issuance of boarding pass.
“The students were not issued boarding passes. It is the airline’s responsibility to clear passengers. We have nothing to do with the issue,” he said.
US Consulate officials said they are trying to gather information on the episode.
With PTI inputs
Updated Date: Dec 22, 2015 23:13:22 IST