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Va. university removes South Dakota campus references

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By Dirk Lammers

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SIOUX FALLS (AP) — The website for the University of Northern Virginia, which was shut down by the state of Virginia last year for lacking accreditation, has removed references to its new South Dakota main campus.

The school had operated in Annandale, Va., for about 15 years and once served more than 1,000 students mostly from India. But when the state of Virginia revoked the university's license in July, officials announced they were heading west to Sioux Falls.

Gone are the website photos showing a fountain flowing outside a modern two-story office building. The address and telephone number for the Sioux Falls "campus," which is actually an empty office suite, were also removed from the site this week after an Associated Press story highlighted the school's relocation attempt.

A telephone call to the school's Annandale, Va., telephone number yielded an out-of-service message, and university Chancellor Ali Dastmalchi did not reply to an email seeking comment.

The South Dakota Attorney General's Office said it is investigating a complaint but would not elaborate.

The University of Northern Virginia had operated in Annandale, Va., for about 15 years, but U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials raided the offices in 2011 amid allegations that the school's primary function was to allow those enrolled to obtain a visa.

Virginia officials shut down the school in July 2013 after discovering it failed for the last five years to receive accreditation from any organization recognized by the U.S. Department of Education. ICE followed up in October by withdrawing the school's approval for attendance of nonimmigrant students. No charges have been filed.

After the school lost its Virginia license, university officials in October sent an application to the secretary of state's office in South Dakota, and three days later the office certified the unaccredited school to provide post-secondary education in the state. South Dakota law allows an unaccredited school to do business as long as it has an affiliate agreement with an accredited institution.

The University of Northern Virginia had such an agreement with IGlobal University when it applied, but IGlobal canceled that partnership in December, said David Sohn, IGlobal's president and chief executive.

Sohn has said that he signed the agreement with the understanding that qualified students from Northern Virginia would be able to take online IGlobal masters of business administration courses. But Sohn said he didn't know at the time that the University of Northern Virginia lacked national accreditation.

University of Northern Virginia's status is unclear, and it's not known if the school is offering any courses online or overseas. The university's winter 2014 class schedule still says "Sioux Falls."

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