Server Slowdown

INS problem forces delay in program to track foreign students
Swamped computers have inadvertently given U.S. college and university administrators a two-week reprieve from having to collect data on foreign students. On Jan. 30, the Immigration and Naturalization Service moved the deadline to begin collecting the data from Jan. 30 to Feb. 15. The data-collection requirement, part of the Homeland Security initiative, is designed to gather and share with the INS academic and personal data, track the status of foreign students, and issue student-visa eligibility documents.

Several schools logging on to the INS's Student and Exchange Visitor Information System, known as Sevis, last week experienced slow response times. It took five minutes to log on over a broadband connection for James Anastasio, the City University of New York's director of administrative computing. "The INS system isn't ready for prime time," he says. Even the INS, which developed the system with EDS, had difficulty accessing it, says Stella Jarina, the INS's director of student operations. So the INS "quadrupled the processing power" by adding more servers, she says, and response times are being monitored.

The system slowdown made entering student records manually nearly impossible, because after 30 minutes of inactivity, Sevis ends the session. "It's a race against the clock," says Stephen Goldberg, director of the international student service center at Baruch College. Schools can opt to automatically upload batches of records, but that can be expensive.

Purdue University, with more than 5,000 foreign students, spent $500,000, which included $150,000 for hardware and software, in order to comply with Sevis regulations using batch processing, says Michael Ivy, director of IT for the office of international programs.

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