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Patriot Act Spurs New Software For Colleges

Beginning Jan. 31, universities and colleges must frequently transmit detailed information about their foreign enrollees to the Immigration and Naturalization Service.
As vice chancellor of student affairs at the 40,000-student University of Wisconsin in Madison, Paul Barrows--like other college administrators--faces a ticking clock to comply with a tough new federal requirement to provide detailed information about the school's 4,000 foreign matriculates.

Beginning Jan. 31, universities and colleges must frequently transmit detailed information about their foreign enrollees to the Immigration and Naturalization Service. The INS has created an IT system, known as Sevis (for Student and Exchange Visitor Information System), to capture and disseminate information about the students to federal authorities.

"The stakes are high," Barrows says. If colleges don't alert the INS about changes in a foreign student's life, that student could be deported. And the feds could stop funding research and education programs and scholarships for all students at the offending school. Wisconsin receives hundreds of millions of dollars annually from federal coffers, mostly for government-funded research.

To help it meet the federal requirements, Wisconsin will deploy a new program from PeopleSoft Inc. known as the Patriot Act Sevis Solution, named after the law enacted last year requiring more-detailed reporting on foreign students. PeopleSoft is giving the software free to its higher-education ERP customers. The software can capture data about the students housed in the ERP systems' human-capital management module. Regardless of how the information is entered, the new program will format it in a manner to be transmitted to the INS over the Internet. PeopleSoft says the data can be transmitted in real time, though because of the large number of foreign students, Wisconsin expects to collect the information and transmit it as a batch dispatch once a day.

Wisconsin collects two types of data on foreign students. One type, housed in the PeopleSoft system, pertains primarily to foreign students' academic life, such as subject major and extracurricular activities. The other type of data relates to nonacademic information, such as the source of income students may receive from overseas. That information is collected in a database using FSA Atlas software. The two can be combined into the PeopleSoft system before being transmitted to the government.

With the data, the INS can quickly determine if a foreign student should have his student visa withdrawn because, for instance, he dropped out of school.

Under the circumstances, Wisconsin has no problems with meeting the new federal rules. "We want to comply," Barrows says. "We're all patriotic Americans and we want to act like patriots."