US college accused of immigration fraud

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For Jadesh – who wouldn't give his real name – the price tag was too irresistible to ignore. At $5,400 a year, Tri-Valley University had the cache of providing an American degree without the prohibitive expense of more celebrated institutions.

But the value of Jadesh's education has been thrown into doubt after Federal agents shut the university down last week. For Jadesh the shame is too much to bare.

"Right now I came here to pursue my masters," Jadesh said. "I can't face my family."

U.S. authorities wonder whether the shame is at being duped or getting caught.

The US District Attorney's office last week claimed that Susan Su created a sham university. She raked in millions of dollars in tuition fees.

And hundreds of young people, generally from India, got themselves US student visas. Su vigorously denied doing anything wrong when interviewed on a local TV station.

"We did not do cheating," Su said. "It's supposed to be right. We never forced anyone to sign up with us."

According to records, 95 percent of students who studied at Tri-Valley University came from the Andhra Pradesh region of India. And half the students had registered their US address at a single apartment block in Suburban San Jose – which is what tipped off federal officials.

US officials aren't sure how many of the Indian students were complicit in the scam and how many were duped. Susmita Gongulee Thomas, consul general of India in San Francisco, said it's still too soon to say whether most students broke the law.

"Those who have found to be in some way complicit in the case would not be allowed transfer and would not be allowed to go back honorably," Thomas said. "They would be deported … with prejudice. Where they have found certain people they will be charged."

The government has radio tagged at least a dozen students, which the feds say does not necessarily imply guilt.

Scams affecting Indian nationals going abroad are nothing new. Last year a number of students were duped into attending various fake institutions in Australia and Canada.

Indian agents working on behalf of lesser known institutions worldwide is rife. This is partly due to a lack of regulations combined with a culture that values word of mouth.

Tri-Valley University had to do very little to convince the local population that the institution would provide an excellent education.

"Since so many students have gone to Tri-Valley University," an Indian mother explained. "I thought it's a good university and you'll get a visa. We thought the fees will be nominal and second you're daughter can work anywhere."

The US government imposes strict rules around students' ability to work while attending university. Part time paid work on campus is allowed but Tri-valley students couldn't do even that the institution is only online.

Privately an Indian journalist said they wondered why students would even travel to America if they could do their students back in India.

It's difficult to know how many students colluded with Su and her allegedly fake university. But guilty or innocent, there's no question that these students will do whatever it takes to live out their American dream.