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Government Partners With Universities To Track Foreign Students

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DURHAM, N.C. — More than 500,000 people from around the world come to study in the United States every year. About 10,000 come to North Carolina alone.

Since Sept. 11, the government takes steps to make sure every one of them is a valid student.

At every campus, school administrators help the government track the students.

"They're watched more than any other group -- they're monitored more closely than any other group," said Catheyrine Cotton, a Duke University spokeswoman.

As soon as any international student is accepted at a university, they are assigned a 10-digit number.

Duke actually started electronically tracking students in 1996 as part of a pilot program. Now, every college and university is required by law to monitor foreign students.

"You just punch in the number and the information on that student pops up on a screen," Cotton said.

The Student and Exchange Visitor Information System compiles information about a student's major, his or her expected graduation date and the school calendar, job information and an address.

"If they move, they're required to tell us and we report," Cotton said.

If a student drops out, but does not pass through immigration with the tracking number, federal agents know that person is in the country illegally.

In the Triangle, Duke is home to nearly 1,700 foreign students, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, more than 1,300 and North Carolina State, 1,500.

"It doesn't bother me," said Shawn Mendonca. "I think it's kind of good in a way because they can make sure they're not up to mischief."

And if they are, the idea is that, with the university's help, the government can do something about it.


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