Local News

Duke Part Of Pilot Program That Tracks International Students

Posted October 26, 2001

— In the wake of the Sept. 11 attacks, lawmakers are pushing for tougher immigration and visa laws. The government is now asking universities to keep a closer eye on international exchange students.

The idea actually got its start nearly six years ago as a way for the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) to get a better handle on foreign visitors in our country. In 1996, Duke University and 20 other schools around the country signed on to be part of a pilot program that tracks international students.

The program is designed to help the government and the schools identify who is a bonafide student and who is not.

"They come here. They go to school. They get their degree. They do their research," said Catheryn Cotten of Duke University.

At Duke University, close to 1,300 students from 100 different countries are in the U.S. on student visas. The federal government is electronically tracking every single one of them.

"What it would do is let Immigration know who came in and didn't show up at school or checked in and dropped out," Cotten said.

The school enters information about each student and then it is relayed in real time to the INS. The database is updated if the student enters graduate school or takes on a school-approved job.

The pilot program has been a success at Duke University, but Cotton points out that while there are just over 800,000 people on student visas in our country, there were 30 million visas issued last year.

"When we put this much energy into students, one wonders are we going to be putting equally as much energy into tourists, temporary workers and treaty traders," she said.

Originally, the plan was for all schools to gradually log onto the program between 2002 and 2003, but now that the federal government is trying to get this on the fast track, it could be even sooner.


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