How not to start a School:
The 1973 Middle East War left the U.S. with at least two changes: we paid more for gas and private language schools exploded with students from the Arabian Gulf and Iran. Iranians were everywhere. A significant minority never even got to the school they were to attend.
Prospective students are issued paper work which allows them to attend a specific school. They take the paperwork to an American Embassy, and they are issued a student visa to attend the school that authorized them to attend. In the 70s it wasn’t much more difficult than that to enter the U.S. on a student visa. In the late 70s a slight loophole in this procedure came to light as President Carter discovered. Once a student arrived here and left the airport there was no telling where the student went. Many Iranians never went to the school they were supposed to attend.
I had been putting together some new thoughts on teaching English as a Second Language and had left my previous job as a Director of an ESL school, and decided to put my own thoughts into practice. Together with my partner, I rented a few rooms, hung out our shingle, and opened as a school on November 1st 1979. Or so I thought.
We had applied for authorization through the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) to issue the relevant acceptance material to international students. We expected approval in mid November and then voila! We would receive more Iranians than we could count. Going into business would be easy. Or so I thought.
On November 4th 1979 the American hostages were taken in Iran and that is when I had my first clue that business is a different matter than academics and politics always trump both. No new applications were to be processed by INS. President Carter was embarrassed and this matter of Iranians running around the country and the hostage situation played an important role in the loss of his Presidency to Ronald Reagan. But why take it out on me!
The government is always easy to deal with: I was told I needed graduates to prove I was a school and until I had graduates I couldn’t have students! I think that is what is meant by Catch 22.
How do you think WAL did become a school that was approved to accept international students? We were finally approved in April 1980.
Dr. Paul Schneider