International Students Sue Northwestern Polytechnic University

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Former students of Fremont, California-based Northwestern Polytechnic University (NPU) have brought a class action lawsuit against the school, alleging “fraud, deceit and/or misrepresentation” concerning its accreditation.

Since 1998 NPU has been accredited by the Accrediting Council for Independent Colleges and Schools (ACICS), a controversial organization accused of lax oversight of troubled for-profit institutions. In late 2016 the U.S. Department of Education revoked ACICS’ authorization as a federally recognized accreditor. However, the current Secretary of Education, Betsy DeVos, has since restored ACICS’ recognition, with further review pending.

ACICS’s future is anything but certain. According to its member directory, Northwestern Polytechnic University is accredited until December 31st, 2018. In a message posted on its web site, NPU President Peter Hsieh shared that the university has been deemed eligible to apply for Candidacy and Initial Accreditation by the WASC Senior College and University Commission. So it appears that an attempt to earn WASC accreditation is NPU’s back-up plan in case ACICS decides to terminate NPU’s accreditation, as it did in the case of Silicon Valley University, or in case ACICS itself once again loses federal authorization as an accreditor.

The students’ lawsuit alleges that NPU willfully concealed the risk it would lose its accreditation due to ACICS’ troubles, and the consequent possibility NPU students would be rendered ineligible to engage in a full 3 years of STEM-related Optional Practical Training (OPT). More than most universities, NPU attracts students by the promise of the OPT pathway. Between 2004 and 2016, more NPU graduates took part in OPT than did graduates of Harvard.

The plaintiffs are Indian students Rohit Kalakanti, Prashant Dhanani, and Manikanta Aravind Cheepi, previously of Hyderabad, Surat, and Vijayawada, respectively. Kalakanti, who first brought the suit, learned that NPU had lost its accreditation in December 2016, and in the months that followed “learned that he was ineligible for the STEM extension” of OPT because of NPU’s loss of accreditation.

The students have engaged the law firm Gutride Safier LLP to litigate the class action. The attorneys state that they “will seek to require NPU to provide refunds to students of tuition, fees, costs and any additional damages required to enroll at another university.” It goes on to say that if NPU is successful in regaining accreditation, “we will seek to require it to permit students to transfer their credits towards a new accredited degree.”

Affected students who wish to join the class action lawsuit are invited to e-mail the firm at npu@gutridesafier.com

For more on NPU see this superb 2016 BuzzFeed investigation, describing how the university “faked students’ scores, skated by immigration authorities – and made a fortune in the process.”

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