New program to help track foreign students

CBy Rosalio Ahumada
The Orion
California State University at Chico

cHICO, Calif. (U-WIRE) – To help address homeland security issues, the California State University system will use a new software program allowing information regarding foreign students to be sent instantly to federal authorities.

PeopleSoft, Inc. will provide the CSU with a new software program called Patriot Act SEVIS Solution that will allow the 23 campuses to send status information on foreign students directly to the Immigration and Naturalization Service. Information sent to the federal agency includes class schedules, fields of study, local addresses and local phone numbers.

Colleen Bentley-Adler is director of public affairs for the CSU. She said the new software program makes sense for the CSU system since it already uses PeopleSoft software to operate the Common Management System. The software gathering foreign student information will be a part of the student services section of CMS.

Status information on foreign students has always been gathered by the university, and most foreign students know it is being gathered, Bentley-Adler said.

“It would be extremely odd for them not to know that this information is being collected,” Bentley-Adler said.

In fall 2001, 16,860 foreign students were enrolled in the CSU statewide, and 555 foreign students were enrolled at Chico State University.

Fawad Ahmed is a computer science graduate student from Pakistan. He said he does not object to the tracking of foreign students in the United States, but he was never informed this kind of information would be sent to the INS.

“I think it’s a personal thing, and if somebody else is using this information we should know about it,” Ahmed said.

Beginning in January 2003, universities must track the status of foreign students in the United States and regularly report changes to the INS as part of a federal mandate. The federal government is requiring that schools comply with the mandate by Jan. 31, 2003.

“If there was ever a time to use the technology advantage of this country to defend this country, that time is now,” said PeopleSoft’s president and CEO Craig Conway in a news release.

The CSU will not have to pay for the new software since it is one of five universities that will test the program for PeopleSoft. Current local addresses and phone numbers being gathered by federal authorities are dependent on foreign students providing truthful information.

Just like other students at Chico State, foreign students might forget to update their information, said Sachin Gupta, a computer engineering graduate student from India.

“It’s good that we have to inform our schools where we live, but how does the school know we still live there?” Gupta said.

University Registrar Bruce Rowen said Chico State collects information on all students enrolled at the university the same way. He said sending important documents to the right address keeps students updating their local addresses and phone numbers.

“We don’t have the resources to go out and knock on a student’s door to make sure that’s where the student lives,” Rowen said.