Category Archives: Aspect Foundation

2009 Oct 23: Aspect asked to change routines after Scranton scandal

The Times Tribune | BY SARAH HOFIUS HALL (STAFF WRITER) | Published: October 23, 2009
Edna Burgette 1Photo: N/A, License: N/A, Created: 2009:07:22 16:15:52
Edna Burgette

Click here to read the report (pdf)

Insufficient oversight and resources plague the department responsible for overseeing foreign-exchange student programs nationwide, a report released Thursday found.

The probe by the U.S. Office of Inspector General was initiated after up to 12 students alleged they were neglected after being placed in Scranton-area homes during the 2008-09 school year. The case exposed the national lack of oversight and significant lapses in background checks for hosts of the 30,000 international students who come to the U.S. each year.

In the Scranton case, local coordinator Edna Burgette allegedly placed students in homes without completing background checks and shuffled some students from home to home.

The students told investigators they lived in filthy homes, some of which were later condemned. Several said they were living with an ex-convict, and at least one student required medical attention for lack of adequate nutrition. All said Ms. Burgette, now the former area coordinator for San Francisco-based Aspect Foundation, ignored their complaints, even though she was paid by Aspect to place the students and check up on them.

Last summer, Ms. Burgette was charged with five counts of endangering the welfare of children. She was fired when Aspect learned of the allegations.

The Department of State has penalized Aspect. The department is limiting the number of student visas Aspect can receive in 2009-10 by 15 percent, leading to a potential $540,000 loss of revenue.

The inspector’s report, while it did not mention the Scranton case, made several recommendations that could have made a difference in Northeast Pennsylvania.

According to the report, individuals within the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, responsible for overseeing exchanges, have not been directly monitoring students and instead were relying on the private educational associations, such as Aspect, to oversee students.

“There is an inherent danger in ascribing major responsibilities without clear guidance and support,” the report stated.

Aspect relied on Ms. Burgette to report problems and to make sure students were safe, and she did neither, Aspect officials have previously stated.

The report recommends the department be given adequate resources to conduct periodic unannounced site visits, and to establish a database to record student complaints and incidents so it is easier track problems.

The report also calls for national criminal history background checks to be given to potential host families.

Background checks vary significantly across the country, from not being done at all or relying on references from family and neighbors, to comprehensive checks, said Danielle Grijalva, director of the California-based Committee for Safety of Foreign Exchange Students.

“You’ve got to do it right the first time,” she said.

While Ms. Grijalva had some reservations about the report, she said if taken seriously it could make a difference in the overall quality and safety of foreign-exchange programs.

“The problems will only repeat themselves if we do not get serious and make changes,” she said.

In a statement, U.S. Sen. Bob Casey, who has called for an overhaul in exchange program oversight, said incidents in Scranton “were allowed to happen, in part, because of a lack of clear regulations that allowed sponsor organizations to interpret the rules in a manner that ultimately endangered these students.”

The “real measure of progress will be what specific steps are taken to prevent this problem from happening again.”

Contact the writer: shofius@timesshamrock.com

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Related stories

State Department statement

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Aspect Foundation / Aspect Education / Kaplan U.K.

Kaplan, Inc.

  • Kaplan UK Ltd.
    • Aspect Education Limited
      • Aspect Foundation, Inc
        • Aspect Cultural Exchange merged with AF

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History:

1985: Aspect Foundation, Incorporated California, co.no: C1265653, (non-profit), president Vivian Fearen

1998: Subsidiary of Sylvan Learning Systems:
(vi) To the knowledge of the Company, any of the Subsidiaries, or the Stockholders, after reasonable inquiry, each non-profit organization with which the Company or any of its Subsidiaries has entered into an Exchange Contract, including Aspect Foundation, Inc. and International Education Forum (“IEF”), …

2000: Sylvan Learning Systems Inc. sells Aspect Foundation, Inc. to Optagon Holdings Ltd. (name changed to: Aspect Educational Holdings Limited – Aspect Education Limited = Kaplan).
(viii) Aspect Foundation Inc. Such trustees and officers of Aspect Foundation, Inc. as are designated by Buyer to Sellers shall have tendered, effective at the Closing, their resignations as such trustees and officers, and individuals designated by Buyer shall be appointed to replace such trustees and officers.

2000: Aspect Cultural Exchange merged in with Aspect Foundation.

2006: Aspect Education Limited operates as a subsidiary of Kaplan U.K. Limited.

2009: Aspect Foundation (DBA Aspect Foundation), Incorporated Washington, co.no: 601403559, (non-profit), president Vivian Fearen

http://aspectfoundation.org/Registrant: Aspect Education UK Ltd /  211 Sutter St / 10th Floor / San Francisco, CA 94108 / Tel: (415) 228 8050 / Fax: (415) 228 8051 / email@aspectworld.com

aspectworld.com takes you immediately to http://www.kaplaninternational.com/ Registrant: Kaplan Inc. / 395 Hudson Street / New York, NY 10014 / Tel: (212) 492 5800 / Fax: (646) 365 3216 /  email@kaplan.com

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2009: BAR/BRI And Kaplan Class Action

2009 Jun 2: Welcome to America (Please Ignore the Dog Shit): S.F.-Based Foreign Exchange Student Organization Ensnared in Housing Scandal

2009 Jul 16: Exchange students live American nightmare

2009 Jul 23: Horror stories from exchange students placed by SF non-profit worker

2009 Jul 21: Warrant of Arrest for Edna Mary Burgette

Edna Mary Burgette was convicted in this matter and had to serve time. She had been responsible for placing exchange students for Aspect Foundation at least 10 years before the authorities got involved. During this time Aspect Foundation had received complaints regarding Ms. Burgette’s placements and her behavior toward the exchange students but to no avail. How many students were affected by Ms. Burgette’s criminal behavior during her time as an International Exchange Coordinator is difficult to know. The only ones with an answer are Ms. Burgette, Aspect Foundation and the students themselves.