Jeremy Beck's picture


  by  Jeremy Beck

BuzzFeed News has another investigative triumph with "Making The Grades - How one California university faked students' scores, skated by immigration authorities -- and made a fortune in the process." by Molly Hensley-Clancy.

See the video report here.

"Northwestern Polytechnic University enrolls 99% of its students -- more than 6,000 overall last year -- from overseas, with little regard for their qualifications" reports Hensley-Clancy, who details how the school faked failing students' grades so they would still qualify for student visas -- and, most important to the university --  be able to pay the next semester's tuition:

"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F (or for graduate students, a D- or D), students who did not earn a passing grade would get a W, meaning they had been withdrawn from the course at the last moment. Their GPA would be saved, and so, potentially, would their visa....

....By mid-2014, NPU adopted an entirely new grading scale for its master's degree students, which lowered the threshold for failing grades by 20 percentage points. Now anyone scoring 40% or above would pass -- and anyone scoring below that would get a W, for withdrawal. A student with a score of 59%, which would be an F at most schools, would now receive a C."

Foreign-student recruiting has escalated in recent years, BuzzFeed News reports:  

"The number of international students at American colleges rose faster this year than it has in decades, as schools worked harder than ever to lure the lucrative students and their tuition dollars.

International enrollment grew 10% to almost 975,000 students in 2014-2015, the fastest rate in the United States in 35 years."

NPU alone spent $1.7 million recruiting foreign students in 2014, and offered"recruiters 15% of the first year’s tuition for every admitted student they referred".

Universities profit foreign enrollment, foreign recruiters get paid by the head, and foreign students get to say in the United States, which his the goal. The promise of a U.S. job, not the lure of a U.S. education, is the principle attraction:

"Most of them said they came to NPU because they hoped to get a visa that would allow them to work in the United States."

The student visa system functions as a pseudo-guest worker system. NPU grads may not qualify as the "best and brightest," but a majority of H-1B visa holders fall into the lowest of four skill categories according to the Government Accountability Office (table 5), which partially explains why many have to be trained by the Americans they replace. Employers would chiefly be attracted to NPU grads because they are young (cheap) and controllable.

The foreign students are well aware of the job opportunities:

"Many seek jobs in the tech industry, and their degrees allow them to remain working in the U.S. for years, avoiding the scrutiny of immigration officials that would have come if they had applied for a standard work visa."

Of the 1.2 million international students using F visas (or M "vocational" visas), approximately 468,000 are enrolled in STEM coursework. International students tend to pay full tuition or more than full tuition rates. F-1 visa holders are supposed to be full-time students, but visa brokers describe the F-1 as a "USA Work Study Visa." According to the website, there are three "great" reasons for employers to hire F-1 students:

  • Most college graduates leave in less than two years. F-1 students who want permanent residence must stay seven to twelve years.

  • Employers have almost no liability at any step in the process.The F-1 student takes every risk, the company will complete the "green card" process.

  • The out of pocket cost for this process is almost zero when compared to retention of a qualified, highly motivated employee for seven to twelve years.

After they graduate, foreign students are permitted to work in the U.S. for up to 29 months under the "Optional Practical Training". OPTs are sought after by employers because they tend to be younger (cheaper) than their competitors. Employers also save 7.65 percent when they hire foreign students instead of US workers because they don't have to pay FICA or Medicare taxes under the OPT program.

The OPT program is now nearly as large as the H-1B program companies like Disney use to displace American workers. Between the two, foreign students in Universities like Northwestern Polytechnic stand a good chance of working in the United States for years. The students who spoke with Hensley-Clancy "said their teachers, who worked full-time jobs elsewhere, gave them practical advice and industry connections; one cited classmates who went on to work at prominent Silicon Valley tech companies."

Every year, there is a proposal to "staple a green card to the diploma" of a foreign student who graduates from an American university. President Carter's Labor Secretary Ray Marshall said this about the "staple" solution:

"What you would get is a lot of fly-by-night educational institutions being set up ... and not necessarily preparing any of those workers while they charge high tuition. Being able to get into the United States is a very valuable right. And people are willing to pay a lot of money to do it."

And big-business universities are happy to collect. Hensley-Clancy says of her investigation:

"What emerged is a portrait of a university that epitomizes many of the key weaknesses in the American higher education and immigration systems: an institution that has used its nonprofit status to enrich its leaders and used its accreditation to dodge more stringent national security requirements."

JEREMY BECK is the Director of the Media Standards Project for NumbersUSA

Legal Immigration
High-skilled Americans

Updated: Thu, Jun 8th 2017 @ 3:23pm EDT

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