Homeland Security Launches Investigation into Aristotle University

Special agents want to know how Aristotle University was authorized to issue student visas

NBC 7 San Diego

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security has launched an investigation into a North County university.

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security oversees the Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP) which manages schools and student visas.

Special agents with the agency want to know how Aristotle University was authorized to issue student visas, which they said is a stringent process.

The investigation was launched after an NBC 7 Investigates story revealed that some of the students (say they) used their life savings to attend Aristotle University the Carlsbad school, for a Master's Degree in Public Health.

On its website,which has now been taken down, Aristotle University claimed it was licensed by the Bureau for Private Post-Secondary and Vocational Education, but a spokesperson from that bureau told NBC 7 there is no record of it ever being licensed by the state.

Students say they attended class once a week for months, with little instruction.

Students also claim Xanthi Gionis, the school’s dean and cofounder, threatens to take away their visas and have them deported if they are late on tuition payments.

Gionis challenged the allegations against the school first brought to light and reported by the NBC 7 Investigation.

“The allegations against Aristotle University are ridiculous and unfounded,” she said at a news conference held Thursday.

Following NBC 7 San Diego’s report, U.S. Sen. Mark Wyland, 38th District sent a letter to Denise Brown who heads the state’s Department of Consumer Affairs.

Wyland sent Brown our report stating that,“the school is, at best, nothing more than a diploma factory.”

Read Sen. Wyland’s letter

On Thursday, Gionis told NBC 7, "Aristotle University has been a homeland security SEVIS approved school to issue the F1 student visas to international students wishing to pursue their masters of public health since 2008."

“It’s extremely hard to get certification,” immigration attorney Ginger Jacobs explained. “So I was very surprised that this school had obtained that certification.”

One student told NBC 7 San Diego that Aristotle University postponed this week’s class scheduled for Monday and informed students the class would resume next week.

NBC 7 reached out to Gionis for comment Wednesday in regards to the investigation into Aristotle University launched by the Department of Homeland Security.

"Aristotle University looks very much forward to and welcomes any and all investigations, particularly from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and the California Department of Consumer Affairs," Gionis told NBC 7.

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