How a Virtual Onshored University can break into the U.S. Market

Yesterday, I posted about the concept of Virtual Onshoring, and how I believe that a university from a developing nation could use this concept to serve the U.S. market, which could lead to significant economic gains for the developing nation.  But how can they do this, and what is stopping them right now?  The following is a summary of what I see would be necessary to succeed.

Utilize a Positive National Brand

The countries that have the greatest chance for success in virtual onshoring a university to the U.S. would be the ones that already have something that has positive recognition in the U.S.  This is especially important, because nearly all developing nations have factors that cause them to have a negative brand in the U.S. as well.   Here are some of the nations I have considered over time, and what brand they could use in the U.S. market:

  • South Africa – Nelson Mandela (who is a UNISA graduate)
  • Egypt – The Library of Alexandria
  • Madagascar – Piggyback on the successful movie series
  • Indonesia – Use Java in the branding, since coffee is so popular in the U.S.
  • Thailand – Bangkok
  • Sri Lanka – Leopards and Big Cats

Gain Legitimacy in the U.S.

At one time UNISA was accredited by the Accrediting Commission of the Distance Education and Training Council (DETC), but let it lapse.  And while they have other non-U.S. accreditation, this won’t help them as much as if they still had the U.S. Title 4 Accreditation (even if it doesn’t help with financial aid as I will explain below).   Thus, any online university that wishes to be in the U.S. market, should get U.S. accreditation, and it would be better if they get regional accreditation, as these accrediting bodies have the most respect; and most will now do international accreditation.

Get the Pricing, Financing, and Tax Strategies Right

Online universities outside the United States cannot administer federal student aid, per Federal regulation.  So students can’t use traditional student loans or get traditional tax benefits.  This is an important issue for a virtual onshored university to understand, and address.   Regarding loans, if the cost of the virtual onshored university is cheap enough, then credit cards can probably pay for everything.  But it would also behoove the non-U.S. university to have a business relationship with a U.S. lender, to be able to offer some type of financial aid.  Regarding taxes, if the university gets U.S. Title 4 Accreditation, then most tax benefits would apply to their U.S. students.  If they don’t then as far as I’m aware only tax deductions for scholarships and educational work expenses (or business expenses) can apply.  (I’m not a tax expert, but I have researched this a bit for my own situation with attending the University of South Africa)

Cut Red Tape and Graft

The biggest limitations to developing nations breaking into the U.S. market are the same limitations that stops most of their economic growth: namely overly burdensome bureaucracies and political corruption.  While it is best for a developing nation to probably start with an existing university, so that much of the infrastructure is already in place; the best strategy would be to create an autonomous division within that university that specifically focuses on virtual onshoring, and which is given sufficient power and resources to set its own policies and procedures, and that is ran by competent and ethical individuals who have the potential to gain financially as the virtual onshored university gains financially.


Past research I have done suggests that there is not yet a university from a developing nation that is poised to enter the U.S. market in a significant manner.  The University of South Africa (UNISA) is the closest, but its decisions to let its U.S. accreditation lapse, and the shenanigans of it president, Jacob Zuma, have thus far prevented it from being a significant player in the U.S. market.  But, its cost to benefit ratio is sufficiently good that students such as myself who have learned about UNISA are going through IACI to join.  This grassroots movement might allow UNISA to be successful in the U.S. market, but the U.S. online education market is still prime for another nation to jump in and become a dominant player.

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