ACICS loss of accreditation: ESL Programs and OPT students must take immediate action

On December 12, 2016, the U.S. Department of Education announced that it no longer recognizes the Accrediting Council for Independent Colleges and Schools (ACICS) as an accrediting agency. This decision to no longer recognize ACICS will affect more than 16,000 international students attending nearly 130 SEVP-certified schools and programs. While the majority of SEVP-certified schools are not required to obtain accreditation and can provide evidence in lieu of accreditation, there are two instances when SEVP-certified schools must be accredited:   

  • English as a Second Language (ESL) programs; and,
  • F-1 students applying for a 24-month Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) Optional Practical Training (OPT) extension.

The Department of Education has issued an 18-month timeline for schools and students affected.  Schools must either obtain accreditation from a different Department of Education-recognized accrediting agency and update their Form I-17 or they will receive a notification to remove the ESL program from their Form I-17 petition. Affected students enrolled in a STEM degree should contact their school to find out if they plan to obtain accreditation elsewhere or should consider transferring if they wish to pursue an OPT STEM extension in the future.  For more information, please visit SEVP's website

SEVP Releases Report on International Student Data

According to a recent report from the Student and Exchange Visitor Program ("SEVP"), there are currently 1.2 million international students using an F or M visa to study in the U.S. across 8,803 certified academic schools and universities, as well as 201,800 J-1 exchange visitors.  Thirty-nine percent of these international students (approximately 466,900 individuals) are enrolled in STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) courses. 

The U.S. maintains the world's largest international student population.  According to a Wall Street Journal article from March 24, 2015, "Amid rising costs, shrinking state support and student resistance to tuition increases, foreign students have become crucial to many public universities. Some hire foreign consultants to recruit students overseas, while others send their own staff on scouting missions. Officials at many state universities say the higher-paying students essentially subsidize in-state students."  The U.S. international student population adds to the vibrancy and diversity of student bodies and college towns and brings in billions of dollars of economic revenue to the U.S. - and not just in terms of tuition dollars, as students in the U.S. also pay for housing, food, household supplies, personal and professional services, and entertainment.

To read more statistics from the SEVP, visit: