The University of Northern Virginia, a small school that operated out of the ground floor of an office building in Annandale, has been ordered to close after 15 years of operation after failing four recent audits by the State Council of Higher Education for Virginia.
State auditors found that it had no accreditation for the past five years and cited it for its failure to hire qualified faculty or offer appropriate curriculum content.
The school, not widely known to many who thought they knew Northern Virginia, has had problems with its ownership, its record-keeping and with allegations that it was simply a way for foreign nationals to obtain a U.S. visa. It was one of the subjects of an investigation by the Chronicle of Higher Education in March 2011 about small for-profit colleges exploiting visa loopholes to recruit foreign students for big dollars. Those who have followed the schools checkered past expected that immigration authorities would crack down on the school after a raid in 2011, but instead it was Virginia educational authorities.
“Somehow this tiny outfit managed to produce 189 alleged grads who got short-term work permits because of high-tech degrees from this place,” said David North, a fellow at the Center for Immigration Studies, who has followed and written about the school. “They were the 18th largest university in the nation in this category.”
Ali Dastmalchi, the current chancellor and chief executive, did not respond to phone messages about the school’s closure. But in the Chronicle of Higher Education article, UNVA founder Daniel Ho told a reporter that the school “is very profitable. Very profitable.” “I can sell degrees. I can sell diplomas. But I won’t,” he said. “Who’s going to supervise me, control me? Myself.”
The state council’s chronology of the shutdown of UNVA states that the school was established in 1998 and attained accreditation from the Accrediting Council for Independent Colleges and Schools in April 2003. But four years later, that same group denied UNVA reaccreditation, finding that there was “insufficient evidence that the distance education faulty is reviewed by the administration.”
Beginning in 2007, the state audited UNVA periodically, always finding “items of non-compliance,” such as not documenting or reviewing its faculty or maintaining student records that show the requirements for admission. UNVA’s accreditation was revoked by the Accrediting Council for Independent Colleges and Schools in 2008.
Things got so bad that a 2012 state council’s audit concluded that UNVA “deliberately and continuously demonstrates its disregard for the requirements of Virginia law and regulation.”
The school’s cease and desist order issued by the state higher education council was first reported by Bre Payton at Watchdog.org, who also noted the university will have to refund any fall tuition money it has already collected. This leaves an unknown number of students in limbo.