Hyderabad, Aug. 5: Uncertainty looms over the fate of 400-odd Indian students in America with the CEO of their California-based university being charged with illegally procuring work permits for the students.
The Herguan University in Sunnyvale claimed on its website that the charges against Jerry Wang, whom it sacked yesterday, have not “affected” the institution, which “is open and conducting classes as usual”.
The university said that if students have valid visa status, “nothing has changed for you”.
However, the San Jose Mercury News quoted a Herguan graduate, Rajiv, as saying the foreign students had been told “that in the next 15 days, if something doesn’t change, you either have to find a different school or leave the country”.
Early last year, a similar scam had shut down the Tri-Valley University in the US, forcing most of its 1,000-odd Indian students to return home while a few succeeded in enrolling in other US universities.
As with Tri-Valley, an overwhelming majority of Herguan University’s foreign students are Indians, mostly from Andhra Pradesh.
The US Immigration and Customs Enforcement said Herguan could lose authorisation to enrol foreign students. It has issued Herguan with a Notice of Intent to Withdraw, the first step in revoking the schools’ Student and Exchange Visitor Program certification. The university has 30 days to respond and request an interview to contest the action.
Wang is accused of forging federal documents to allow foreign students to stay in the US and work. Herguan, an unaccredited university, lures foreign students by offering full-time work permits and low tuition fees, sources in Hyderabad-based overseas education consultancies said.
Herguan offers computer science and business degrees and was granted federal approval in 2008 to accept foreign students.
Some of the students’ parents in Andhra said they had spent more than Rs 25 lakh on their children’s admission and student visas, obtained through the local education consultancies.
P. Madhava Rao of Vijayawada said the consultancies had told his son Ajay that if he went to Herguan, he could work full-time anywhere in the US while being a studen.
“The consultants said there was no need to attend classes regularly and that the university officials would take care of everything in case any problems arose in the future,” Rao said.
Some of the parents said senior Herguan students from the state had lured their children to the university. They alleged that Herguan paid senior students a commission of about $1,200 for every foreign student they successfully referred to the university.
“Most of the Indian students did not even know that such a university existed until they received references from its senior students whom they knew in India,” Ashok Kolla, chairman of the NRI students relations committee of the Telugu Association of North America (Tana), said over the phone from the US.
He said Tana had spoken to Indian embassy officials and a law firm to find out how it could help the students. “A clear picture is likely to emerge by Monday.”
Surya Ganesh Valmiki of the Valmiki Group of Overseas Educational Consultants, Hyderabad, was not too optimistic. “The chances of these students getting a transfer from Herguan to other universities are bleak,” he said.
The Andhra Pradesh government is in touch with the Indian embassy in Washington. Of the 1.5 lakh Indian students who travel overseas to study every year, some 60 per cent are from Andhra.