Agents from the Department of Homeland Security raided a career institute’s offices and arrested five of its administrators as part of their ongoing efforts to target student visa fraud throughout the country. The resulting charges – which include both visa and financial fraud – could put the five alleged collaborators behind bars for as long as 20 years. At the same time, international students at the Micropower Career Institute‘s five campuses across two states find themselves in the middle of a very messy situation.
According to authorities, the school and its officials conducted an elaborate charade in order to collect federal education money from otherwise ineligible English as a Second Language students. To do this, the schools’ five principal administrators – all connected to one another by birth or marriage – portrayed their schools as legitimate language schools where international students carried full course loads. In actuality, however, most of the English as a Second Language students enrolled at the school did not attend the majority of their classes.* To elude suspicion – and continue collecting the approximately $10,000 in annual tuition each student received – administrators would transfer students with poor attendance from one school to an another by creating an elaborate paper trail that, heretofore, had avoided detection. At the same time, school officials also faked or otherwise manipulated documents in order to hide the fact tat both they and their students were not complying with the Department of Education’s regulations regarding the financial aid it offers to low-income post-high school students. Though it is hard to imagine that the school’s students were unaware of such widespread fraud they, too, will have to deal with the fallout of this investigation in their own way.
* Students who are granted F-1 student visas are eligible to remain in the US as long as they are pursuing full courses of study and attend 80% of their classes (or at least 18 hours of classes a week) at approved schools. Failure to do so is may result in the early termination of a student’s visa.