May 27, 2012

U.S. May Require College English Language Programs to Get Special Accreditation


U.S. May Require College Language Programs to Get Special Accreditation
By Karin Fischer
May 20, 2012

University-run English-language programs fear that the U.S. Department of Homeland Security may require them to apply for separate specialized accreditation or lose their ability to enroll students from abroad.

In a bulletin recently sent to colleges and language schools, and in communications with individual institutions, the Student and Exchange Visitor Program, or SEVP, has said that both stand-alone and college language programs must produce evidence of their accreditation during certification reviews, or risk being booted from the system.

Under a 2010 law, independent language schools are now required to have, or to show they are in the process of applying for, accreditation in order to be approved to admit foreign students.

But campus programs believe they are exempt from the spot accreditation checks that verify the schools' compliance; they say they qualify to be part of the visa system because they are units of institutions with regional or national accreditation. While two groups, the Accrediting Council for Continuing Education and Training and the Commission on English Language Program Accreditation, specifically evaluate and approve language programs, many university-run intensive English programs are not individually accredited but are certified through institutional accreditation.

International-education groups, many of which supported the 2010 law as a way to bring greater oversight to bad-actor language schools, contend that SEVP is misinterpreting the measure. They're taken aback, they say, to suddenly be asked to produce evidence of accreditation when they are part of institutions in good standing.

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