Moreover, many from Andhra Pradesh had taken a circuitous route to
Tri-Valley ' first joining another varsity and then landing up at the
fake varsity, lured probably by its offer of instant employment.
These findings figure in the detailed report submitted by the NRI cell (at the Secretariat) to chief minister N Kiran Kumar Reddy
As per the report, a majority of the Indian students had moved to
Tri-Valley from other universities. It also states that only a little
more than 100 students who had obtained visas from US Consulates in India
were Tri-Valley bound, indicating that most with F-1 visas were going to other universities.
The students needed a crooked route to Tri-Valley as it was not
approved by the US to provide I-20 forms, which every applicant for
student visa (F-1), needs to submit. Using illegal I-20 forms issued by
Tri-Valley raised the risk of being caught during a thorough check.
Consequently, students preferred to take admissions in other
universities with valid I-20 forms and then used it to enter Tri-Valley.
The university, however, claims on its website that it was
"authorised'' by the US government to issue I-20 forms. But only 140 of
its 5,500 students had this form from Tri-Valley. Parents have also
accused Tri-Valley of running a scam even in issuing these "fake" I-20
forms. "While most universities issue I-20 forms without much
hassle, Tri-Valley University management or agents charged Rs 25,000 to
Rs 50,000," said a parent from the city.
Some students from Hyderabad
even received an I-20 directly from the university and it is reliably
learnt that both Hyderabad US Consulate and the one at Chennai failed to
detect the fraud and processed these F-1 visa forms.
cases it appeared that students had not really intended to move to the
sham Tri-Valley unversity. For instance, a local student who went for
her MBA to Schiller International University, Florida,
eventually moved to Tri-Valley along with a bunch of 20 other students
after her course was over. The reason? While most joined it lured by the
prospect of being legally allowed to work (Tri-Valley gives Curricular
Practical Training enabling students to work from Day 1 for 20 to 40
hours a week), others simply joined the bandwagon.
several students being radio-tagged and interrogated for long hours, the
CM on Wednesday said that the state had written to the ministry of
external affairs and the Indian consulate in California
to protect students and provide them with legal aid.
Originally posted by TOI
WASHINGTON: Hundreds of Indian students who have gotten scammed by a dodgy California-based university had it coming. Tri-Valley University
(TVU) had a reputation as a "Diploma Mill" that offered a spurious
route to employment and immigration in the US. Inquiring students and
professionals knew about it, discussed it in immigration forums, and
warned others about it. But eager beavers looking for a short
cut to emigrating to the US through a questionable academic route
ignored the red flags
. After US authorities busted the scam, an
estimated 1500 students, some of them gullible victims, some of them
scheming immigrant hopefuls, face financial loss, loss of credits, loss
of time, loss of face, and in some cases, even face deportation. ( Read: Hard times ahead for 'sham' US varsity students
Here's how the scam unfolded: India, from among all countries, has been
sending the maximum number of students to US colleges over the past
decade ' some 10,000 to 15,000 each year. Most aspiring students try and
get into the top 50 schools, which have stringent qualifying standards,
including exams such as GRE and GMAT, besides TOEFL, an English
The process involves gaining admission on the basis of
test scores, in lieu of which the university, if it accredited and
complaint with US rules, sends an I-20 document to the accepted student,
which he or she presents to the embassy or consulate in the home
country to get an F-1 student visa. ( Read: Govt probing if agents duped students
But in recent years, several dodgy universities have come up which
waive GRE/GMAT requirements as long as students can pay thousands of
dollars up front in the form of various 'fees.' More pertinently, these
colleges dubiously facilitate Optional Practical Training(OPT) and
Curricular Practical Training (CPT), the two routes to employment at the
end of the college degree, from the first day of enrollment.
Typically, in recognized, well-regarded universities, all students must
be enrolled as full-time students for a year before receiving CPT/OPT.
For the hundreds of thousands of Indian students who have eventually
become US citizens, OPT and CPT are the first steps to employment--based visa (usually H1-B), Green Card, and citizenship, in that order. TVU
and similar schools had a "well-earned" reputation of shortening the
process by offering OPT/CPT from day one ' which meant "students" could
get on the employment track even as they began "college." In fact, TVU
didn't even have a campus in the traditional sense. It had a solitary,
sorry-looking building, bought in April 2010, which housed everything
from administrative offices to classrooms, from which random lectures
were transmitted over the internet to "students" across the US,
including those working other jobs. Under current US law, students
cannot take only online courses while on an F-1 status, a scam TVU
managed to perpetrate.
Founded by Susan Xiao-Ping Su and run
mainly by Chinese Christians, with a few Indians in the "faculty," the
school boasted that its mission "is to make Christian scientists,
engineers, business leaders and lawyers for the glory of God, with both
solid academic professionalism and Christian faith, therefore to live
out Christ-like characters, value and compassion in the world, to make
an impact and shine as its light." If that wasn't enough to set
off alarm bells, prospective students could have at least seen the
writing on the wall ' internet forums -- had they bother to trawl any.
In an exchange that began in April 2010, students, both prospective,
inquiring ones, and those already committed to TVU, duked it out online
about the university and its practices. "Has any one got any experience
with Tri-Valley University?" inquired one person on an immigration
forum. He had heard they offer "hassle free admission, gre, gmat not
mandatory, tofel (sic) is pretty much the only requirement low semester
fee, OPT, CPT from the day the course starts. no tests, no mandatory
online classes, a perfect way to bypass the visa process!" In
no time, there were red flags galore. "TVU is NOT accredited, so you can
NOT get a degree from them. Any 'degree' they issue is worthless,"
wrote one forum member on May 19. "If you use a 'degree' from them for
any immigration purpose, it would be fraud. You can also NOT use OPT or
CPT from them. Any such use would be fraud." Unperturbed, the inquirer
wrote back: "the degrees are worthless, but i thought that its enough to
Other immigration forum members, some of them
partisans and flaks for TVU, then argued about how if the university was
not accredited, it could generate I-20, a document for prospective
students that enables them to apply for and get F-1 student visa in
their home country. "You are grasping at straws. Probably because you
have signed up with them and now have been told that you got scammed.
Scamming victims are often in denial...," wrote a user named Jo1234,
warning, "I think TVU will eventually get into trouble with
authorities...Their "degrees" are worthless. If you try to use them for
an H1 or a GC, you would be committing fraud. Spend your money with a
real university, not these fraudsters."
It took till January
this year for US authorities to cotton on to the scam ' or, to look at
it charitably, to put together the manpower for a nationwide crackdown.
Although TVU was based in Pleasanton, California, it's 'students' were
scattered throughout the country, from the East Coast to Midwest to Deep
South. Many of them were illegally employed. Although it was allowed
only 30 foreign admissions pending accreditation, TVU had managed to
work the system to enroll more than 1500 students. Apparently, there
were companies across the US which used TVU's F-1 visa-based CPT/OPT to
beat H1-B visa requirements, which regulate salary, insist on not
replacing American workers etc.
On January 19, after raiding
TVU, getting student records from the school, and shutting it down,
immigration officials began knocking on the doors of TVU students across
the country or serving NTAs (notice to appear) asking them to get in
touch with the local office. In some cases, officials merely made
preliminary inquiries. In others, students were interrogated for up to
three hours. Some had their passports taken away, if they declined
voluntary departure. And in rare cases, where officials found egregious
violation of visa terms or questionable visas, students were shackled
with electronic monitoring devices till further inquiries.
"It was terrifying," said one student who asked not to be named. "Out of the blue, all our dreams came crashing down."
But while there is the usual outrage and fire-spitting in India over
the radio collar issue, it turns out that not all students are as
gullible as was initially made out. Speaking on background, community
leaders, attorneys, and even some students acknowledged that many people
knew the whole process was questionable. One giveaway: According to
representatives of the Telugu Association of North America (TANA), an
estimated 95 per cent of the TVU admissions from India are from Andhra
Pradesh, a fact that has prompted TANA to arrange legal representation
for the students. "They are young kids whose future will be ruined. They
are our people after all. We have to help them," says TANA's Jayaram
Komati. According to one student, most victims paid up to $ 2800 per
semester to Tri-Valley, some of them paying as much as $ 16,000 up front
for a full course to obtain a shady degree. The growing sense
among officials and even the Indian community is that many students knew
what they were getting into but still risked it. "They know what the
rules are - problem is, some of them work within the Indian mentality
that the rules are made to be avoided and that the government is a
nuisance, not a power to be reckoned with," Nandita Ruchandani, a New
York-area immigration attorney who has dealt with such cases, told ToI.
Still, many attorneys, some of them working pro bono, are offering to
help the students. Two attorneys arranged by TANA in the Bay Area are
now working on several Tri-Valley cases.
On Sunday morning TANA
arranged for a conference call with immigration attorneys at which more
than 200 affected students called in. Among the student gripes, how
could the US government undermine the process initiated by a college
which it recognized enough to allow it to generate F-1 visas? And if it
was a sham university as authorities were now claiming, how and why did
the US consulates in India issue the visas?
steamed up Indian government, aghast at the radio tagging of a few
students, has sought to free them of the ignominy even as the more
gullible victims are wondering whether to return to India or keep a foot
in the academic door through an appeals process. "We are in a dilemma
...Many students are afraid to go to immigration officers...they are
taking away passports pending investigation, sometimes even for those
going for voluntary self-departure," a Minneapolis-based student told
TOI. The student, who transferred to Tri-Valley from another university,
found the Pleasanton school dodgy enough to request a transfer late
last year. But she says other schools declined to accept Tri-Valley
credits. Stuck in the quagmire, she has gone by the advice of US
authorities and phoned into the hotline they have established to provide
details of her case. She hasn't heard back from them. It will be a long
cold winter for many Indian students in the US.