WENR, July/August 2004: Americas


Central American Accreditation Agency Begins Work

In the making for more than three years, the Consejo Centroamericano de Acreditación de la Educación Superior (Central American Accreditation Council (CCA) recently began operations to raise the level of higher education to internationally competitive standards through the implementation of a region-wide accreditation program. Officials say the accreditation system will create minimum qualification standards to facilitate the exchange of ideas, students and lecturers to the benefit of the region’s approximately 700,000 university students.

In 1985, there were fewer than 40 private universities in Central America, according to the CCA. That number has since more than tripled, to 139. While these numbers mean higher education is now available to a much larger population, for many in the educational field, the time has come to improve quality over quantity. Rather than duplicate the role of various national accreditation programs, CCA will work as an umbrella organization for pre-existing accreditation programs within each Central American country. The council will also work to create accreditation systems within countries that do not already have established systems. Accreditation will be based on both internal and external evaluations, according to officials from the council.

The Tico Times [1]
July 15, 2004


Brasilia Institution Begins Race-Based Admissions

The University of Brasilia [2] has launched a controversial race-identification program in an attempt to meet a 20 percent quota of “negro” (black or mixed-race) undergraduate students. Under the system, photographs of potential students are being analyzed by a special university commission to identify applicants’ racial characteristics.

The program is open only to candidates from state high schools. In addition to submitting photographs, students had to declare themselves black or mixed race and pass an entrance examination to qualify for one of 392 places awarded in June. According to Brazil’s Institute of Geography and Statistics, nearly half of the country’s 175 million residents are “afro descendents.” However, this group makes up just 8 percent of the university population.

In 2002, the State University of Rio de Janeiro [3] became the first institution to adopt a quota admission program. Congress is considering a proposal by Education Minister Tarso Genro that would require all universities to reserve quotas for black students. Specific quota levels would vary by state to reflect the local population’s racial composition.

The Times Higher Education Supplement [4]
May 14, 2004


Pilot Program Launched to Entice Overseas Students

Officials from the provinces of Nova Scotia, Saskatchewan, New Brunswick and Alberta, in concert with the federal immigration body Citizenship and Immigration Canada [5] (CIC), recently announced pilot projects allowing international students to seek employment after graduation, to bolster Canada’s appeal as an international study destination. Another recent announcement allows students in certain provinces to work off campus while pursuing their degree programs.

Foreign students in the four provinces previously were permitted to work for one year after graduation in their field of study. The new projects will allow them to work for an additional year, which the CIC hopes will encourage them to remain in the country as permanent residents. The agreements are in place for three years, during which time they will be evaluated on an ongoing basis.

CIC news release [6]
May 6, 2004

Ontario Schools Lower Admission Requirements

Ontario universities are increasing the competition, and in some cases lowering admission requirements, to attract students to their campuses after last year’s efforts to accommodate the bonanza high school graduating class created by the double cohort. Many universities have been offering increased value to their scholarships, and both the University of Toronto [7] and the University of Western Ontario [8] lowered the marks required to enter the first year of study.

A building boom hit campuses last year as universities began construction projects to accommodate twice the number of students graduating from high school, a result of the provincial government eliminating grade 13. Most campuses are still expanding classroom spaces, but with about 30 percent fewer high school students applying for entry this fall, universities find themselves with a few more seats than students. Grades required for admissions were raised last year in response to increased competition for places. This year, they have been dropped two to five percentage points, similar to their levels before the double cohort class.

Globe and Mail [9]
June 12, 2004

CICIC Announces Register of Recognized Postsecondary Institutions

The Canadian Information Centre for International Credentials [10] (CICIC) issued a news release in May announcing that a complete list of recognized postsecondary institutions in Canada has been posted on its Web site. CICIC maintains the site, in cooperation with the provincial/territorial ministries and departments responsible for education. It is the official source of information on institutions of higher education as recognized by the competent jurisdictional authorities. CICIC will regularly update the list, which is available at: www.cicic.ca/postsec/institutions.indexe.stm [11].

CICIC news release [12]
June 4, 2004

The United States

Sylvan Changes Name, Mission

On May 18, Sylvan Learning Systems officially changed its name to Laureate Education Inc. [13], and completed its transformation from a business offering instruction at tutoring centers into an international higher-education company. With nine universities and institutes in Europe and Latin America and two e-learning institutions in the United States, Laureate enrolls more than 130,000 students.

The Baltimore-based company sold its learning centers and brand name to Educate Inc. [14], a company funded by Apollo Management, in June 2003. Laureate will continue to market its colleges and universities under their local names, but will also use the “Laureate International Universities” brand for programs that involve courses from more than one affiliate in the network.

Business Wire [15]
May 17, 2004

Final SEVIS Fee Regulations Set

On July 1, the Department of Homeland Security issued final regulations authorizing the collection of fees levied on F, J and M nonimmigrant classifications to help cover the costs of administering and maintaining the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS). The system requires the collection of information relating to nonimmigrant foreign students and exchange visitors.

Effective Sept. 1, the Department of Homeland Security will collect a fee from students arriving on F-1, F-3, M-1, M-3, or J-1 visas. The fee will be $100 in the majority of cases; however, in certain cases the J-1 exchange visitor fee will be $35, and in other cases the fee will be waived. Full details of the final fee regulations are available at: www.ice.gov/graphics/enforce/imm/sevis/index.htm [16]

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement [17]
June 29, 2004

Wyoming Stiffens Regulations on Non-Accredited Institutions

At least one private college has suspended its degree offerings and two more have closed or left Wyoming after a new state law aimed at regulating so-called diploma mills was passed. The law, which went into effect July 1, limits the degree-granting authority of non-accredited institutions that have a religious exemption from the state Department of Education to the provision of degree programs in their religious or theological subject area. Secular degrees such as business or computer science are no longer permitted.

The bill originally was introduced in last winter’s legislative session in response to questions raised over Hamilton University, which had been operating under a religious exemption. In 2003, the General Accounting Office investigated the educational credentials of a Hamilton University graduate and senior career employee in the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. The investigation found, among other concerns, that Hamilton students can graduate on average in 30 days and are required only to complete an enrollment application, pay tuition of about $3,600, take a one-day personal, business and professional ethics course and write an academic paper of at least 2,000 words in length.

Hamilton was one of eight schools with religious exemptions on the original list forwarded to Attorney Gen. Pat Crank, who will enforce the new law. Two of the eight — Kingdom College of Natural Health (moved) and St. Katherine’s Institute (no longer active) — were off the list as of July 1, said Deborah Hinckley, director of communications for the state Department of Education. The remaining religious-exempt schools on the department’s list are: Albin Baptist Church; Arizona A&M; Bridgefield University, headquartered in Las Vegas; Global Church of God, headquartered in Derby, United Kingdom.; Hamilton University; and Healing Light Ministries.

Associated Press [18]
July 28, 2004