Tri-Valley University: Agencies or students to blame?

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Hyderabad:  Sasikala's daughter applied three times for US visa last year, hoping to enrol in Tri-Valley University. Initially worried, the mother is now relieved that the visa application was rejected each time.

Tri-Valley University, a college near San Francisco, has been shut down on the grounds that it was running a massive immigration racket and serving as an illegal entry point for students. Hundreds of Indians were enrolled at the university. Some of them have been made to wear radio tags or ankle bracelets.

"We went to at least three different consultancies. They showed me so many visas of students who have gone to Tri-Valley. So we thought it is a good university. They said for Tri-Valley we will get visa very easily. They said in Tri-Valley fees is very nominal and second thing my daughter can work anywhere and can write exams online,'' says Sasikala.

The big rush for higher education overseas, that many hope would eventually help them immigrate to 'greener pastures', has spurred the growth of number of consultancy firms.

IAEC consultants is mentioned as the agent of Tri-Valley University on their website, but officials in Hyderabad say they have not sent any student to Tri-Valley and that they do not even deal with processing of documents for US universities.

Those dealing in the business say while the US authorities have some answers to give, students cannot claim ignorance as a defence for innocence.

"Students know everything as it is in the site itself. If this is an online university, there is no need to go to US and study. They can study online from here itself. Why is this university asking people to come there and study? They are the least priced universities...they charge $5500 per year as compared to other universities that are charging $18000 $33000,'' says Rohit Kumar, an overseas education consultant.

The US consulate in Hyderabad also says the onus is on the students to verify antecedents before deciding to take admission in a university.

"Any student coming from Hyderabad or anywhere else in the world should get a good idea before they go for visa interview whether the school they are going to is an accredited one and will give them the education they are looking for,'' says Juliet Wurr, the public affairs incharge at the US consulate in Hyderabad.

With Andhra Pradesh sending the maximum number of students, not just to Tri-Valley but to the US, the state government is now looking at legal measures to ensure better regulation and accountability.

"These consultancy agencies that are the channelling agencies for admission process will also be scrutinised fully,'' says Sridhar Babu, a minister in the state.

The Tri-Valley case has left many people confused and concerned over the extent of involvement of Indian students in the immigration fraud. Did they knowingly play along with the illegal activities of Tri-Valley University or were they innocent victims?

Each student's fate will be decided on a case-to-case basis. Those who were reportedly aware that the college they were enrolling at was violating immigration laws could face criminal charges. 

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