University of Northern Virginia ordered to close

unvaYou never heard of the University of Northern Virginia, home of the Fighting Commuters? You’re not alone. The obscure, privately-owned school has for years occupied an inconspicuous ground-floor suite in an Annandale office building.

But critics have long maintained that it was something even worse than a diploma mill — the slur often applied to for-profit schools. They’ve said it was basically a way for foreign nationals to get a U.S. visa. And now it has been ordered to close after failing four audits by State Council of Higher Education for Virginia (SCHEV).

“SCHEV has written the University of Northern Virginia seeking information regarding student academic and financial records. When that information has been obtained, SCHEV will (1) communicate with students regarding the impact of revocation and currently enrolled students’ options for continuing education; (2) process reimbursements for eligible currently enrolled students according to the terms of the Student Tuition Guaranty Fund; and (3) facilitate the preservation and transfer of student records to a designated repository,” the council said in a posting on its website.

Certificate revoked

SCHEV revoked the school’s operating certificate, meaning that it must immediately cease operating. Foreign nationals attending the school on a visa should contact the Department of Homeland Security for information about their fate.

The school’s problems are nothing new. Besides the four SCHEV audits, UNVA’s accreditation was revoked by the Accrediting Council for Independent Colleges and Schools in 2008 and the school had never managed to win accreditation elsewhere, as required by Virginia law.

The school is not exactly weighed down with bureaucracy. Its chancellor is Ali Dastmalchi, about whom the school’s website offers no information. It has only a three-person board of directors, consisting of:

  • Dr. Bishnu P. Poudel, Chairman, former vice president of Virginia International University, which operates next to a dentist’s office in an office park in Fairfax; 
  • Svetlana Rassulova, about whom no information is offered; and 
  • Maggie Liu, the “alumni representative.” She was the first student admitted by UNV in 1998 and now an employee of the Social Security Administration. She is the alumni representative on the Board.

The Washington Post’s Tom Jackman visited the school in 2011 and counted four classrooms. Somehow, out of such a tiny base, UNVA managed to grant 198 degrees, Jackman noted.


About the Author

Truman Lewis
A former reporter and bureau chief, Truman Lewis has covered presidential campaigns, state politics and stories ranging from organized crime to environmental and consumer protection.