The University of Antelope Valley in California has been placed on probation by its accreditor, just one year after being acquired by a Singaporean tech company.
The private college received a letter from WASC Senior College and University Commission (WSCUC) on Aug. 22 stating it was on probation after failing to meet multiple accreditation standards. While the university can operate during the probation—which could last up to two years—any new degree programs or sites would have to be approved by the accreditor.
WSCUC also directed UAV to submit by Oct. 1 a teach-out plan that spells out alternatives for students if UAV were to close.
UAV is a four-year, for-profit institution serving about 600 students. Genius Group Limited, a Singapore-based education-focused technology company, acquired the university in July 2022 with plans to grow the physical campus and expand offerings into the metaverse.
WSCUC said Genius Group’s plans have not panned out. It cited issues with the university’s leadership, financial strength, enrollment, student success and communication.
“UAV has not provided evidence that it has the leadership, organizational structures, and decision-making processes that can sustain institutional capacity and educational effectiveness,” WSCUC said in its probation notice.
UAV has already taken initial steps toward addressing the concerns, said Tracy West, UAV’s president. West, who has held her role since last October, declined to describe any more specifics in an email to Inside Higher Ed.
“We hold a strong dedication to resolving and rectifying each concern raised by WASC,” West said. “Given the complexity of the matters involved, our diligent efforts are aimed at addressing this, recognizing that it’s not a challenge that can be swiftly resolved. We consider our responsibility to offer top-tier education to our students as a matter of great importance.”
Genius Group provides live and online classes focused on “entrepreneur education” programming. In 2022, in addition to UAV, it acquired New Zealand–based Education Angels, UK-based Property Investors Network and South Africa–based E-Squared Education Enterprises.
Announcing its acquisition of UAV a year ago, Genius Group said it would build UAV’s “digital twin,” which is a copy of UAV’s campus in the virtual reality of the metaverse. The company said that would include “a 21st-century curriculum, faculty, campuses and ed-tech platform for university students” with the goal to deliver “tertiary education globally in an immersive and engaging way.”
Genius Group did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
The accreditor conducted a site visit at UAV in November 2022 following the acquisition and then requested a series of follow-up reports, including one to address “concerns about adherence to WSCUC standards.”
According to WSCUC, UAV’s operating expenses have outpaced its revenue for at least the last two years, with the university relying on “substantial” cash infusions from Genius Group to stay afloat. WSCUC also called out that UAV has operated without a chief financial officer since the fall of 2022.
The university has experienced additional leadership changes. Earlier this month, UAV announced an entirely new slate of trustees, with no explanation for the previous board’s departure.
WSCUC also found the university to be noncompliant in its retention and graduation rates. According to data from the National Center for Education Statistics’ Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System, UAV’s first-year student retention rate was at 58 percent for first-year students in fall 2022. WSCUC also pointed toward declining graduation rates in the university’s associate and bachelor’s degree programs.
The accreditation office stated UAV also did not inform the office when resignations occurred, disclose its “severe” budgetary challenges or alert it when the U.S. Department of Education conducted audits into the university’s financial aid operations.