The state of Virginia reached a consent agreement allowing Virginia International University to continue operating provided it stops offering online education for a period of at least three years.
The State Council of Higher Education of Virginia voted in March to move ahead with revoking VIU’s certificate to operate after an audit found deficiencies in the quality and rigor of its online education offerings. The audit found that “the single most important factor contributing to the substandard quality of online education at VIU is the institution’s acceptance of international students with an abysmally poor command of the English language.”
Although the audit report focused on the online education offered by VIU, it stated that SCHEV staff believe the "deficiency of the education provided by VIU is not limited to online courses." The report cited a number of reasons staff reached this conclusion, including that the lack of English proficiency among the student population would affect not only online but also face-to-face courses and the fact that the same faculty are teaching online and face-to-face classes. SCHEV's review of more than 60 student transcripts found "no discernible difference" in grades received for online versus face-to-face classes.
The consent agreement reached last week to allow VIU to continue operating states that “VIU agrees to offer education exclusively in a face-to-face modality for a minimum period of three years.” It also states that SCHEV will conduct an audit no later than Jan. 31 in which regulators will review the university’s compliance with rules regarding “faculty qualifications; student eligibility for admission; maintenance of student admission, academic and financial files; and VIU’s processing of refunds.”
In a March letter to SCHEV, VIU said it had made a number of changes to its course offerings and internal operations in response to the audit findings. The university also denied allegations that it admits students with substandard English skills.
The institution is accredited by the Accrediting Commission for Independent Colleges and Schools, which last year regained federal recognition from the Department of Education after having been stripped of it by the Obama administration. ACICS sent VIU a letter on May 28 extending a “show-cause” directive requiring it to provide additional information to the accreditor. Michelle Edwards, ACICS's president and CEO, said the accrediting council has not yet reviewed the consent agreement to determine what action might be appropriate.