Fighting For You: Keeping Accredited Intensive English Programs Legit

On December 1st, the AAIEP (American Association of Intensive English Programs) announced that House Bill 2361 had been passed in the U.S. House of Representatives. This legislation requires that all Intensive English Programs be accredited before being allowed to issue I-20’s. An I-20 is an official government document that certifies the individual is eligible to be an F-1 non-immigrant student in the U.S.

This legislation will prevent poor-performing, or worse, fraudulent, organizations from issuing I-20’s. The AAIEP has been campaigning for this legislation for years after seeing an earlier version of the same law disappear into oblivion in a lame-duck session of Congress a while back.

Having been accredited since 1997, BridgeEnglish, a member of the AAIEP, has been a strong supporter of this legislation. In September of 2010, our Education Coordinator, Arpita Kishen, and I joined the AAIEP’s annual Professional Day in Washington DC where, among other activities, there was a visit to Capitol Hill to lobby our representatives to pass this important piece of legislation.

Our representative from the Denver area, Diana DeGette, was not in Washington during our visit but her education liaison was and we had the opportunity to speak to her at length about the bill we were supporting. We spoke about the bi-partisan nature of the bill, with two of its sponsors being Barney Frank (D) Massachusetts and Lamar Smith (R) Texas – two individuals who can be so opposed in other areas but who obviously found common ground  on this legislation.

We brought up the case of a Florida office that was issuing I-20’s when it was discovered this past year that there was no school, classroom or teachers. Over 130 illegal immigrants entered the US through this office. We also discussed the fact that not all institutions issuing I-20’s get inspected regularly by Immigration but accredited institutions must go through the reaccreditation process with an on-site visit on a regular schedule where the handling of I-20’s is scrutinized in detail.

All accredited intensive English programs work hard to ensure that their students receive the best possible education and operate in a businesslike and ethical manner. Students know that accredited Intensive English Programs will deliver what the students expected to receive before arriving here. The passing of HR2361 was a great victory for the AAIEP, accredited IEPs and the students we serve.