Two weeks before the Jan. 30 deadline, only 23 percent of MU’s international students were registered in the Student Exchange and Visitor Information System. Six months later, MU will meet the extended deadline by having more than 1,400 students registered.
Today marks the deadline for international students to be registered in the system, which was implemented after the Sept. 11 attacks. It provides students’ personal information to the Bureau of Citizenship and Immigration Services in an attempt to verify that people in the country on student visas are actually attending school.
The first phase of the system began in July 2002 with a completion deadline of Jan. 30. Because of software difficulties and the magnitude of registering all the students, the deadline was extended to today.
“I think the federal government recognized it was impossible for schools to meet the original deadline of January 2003,” said David Currey, assistant director of the International Center at MU.
Colleges and universities are responsible for entering the students’ information into the system. By mid-January, MU had only 300 of 1,327 international students registered with the system.
MU now has more than 1,400 international students and scholars and about 200 prospective students already in the system for this fall. Stephens College expects three international students this fall and all have been registered into the system. Columbia College expects 70 international students and plans on having everyone registered by today.
None of the three institutions has had to turn away a student because of problems with the system.
The most significant change with the system since Sept. 11 is switching from paper to electronic information. Under the old system, the Bureau of Citizenship and Immigration Services was not aware that students were entering the country until they showed up at the port of entry. If the student didn’t show up to the appropriate educational institution, the bureau was not alerted. Now, students have 30 days from the start of classes to show up and if they don’t the school must notify the bureau so they can find out what happened to the student.
For MU, the cost of implementing the system has been about $40,000. The funds provided by the Provost Office paid for upgrades on software and hardware, server administration and technical support. With only a few students to enter Stephens College and Columbia College they are using the Internet SEVIS program and therefore did not have to endure any additional costs.
The federal government earmarked about $36 million for BCIS to begin the SEVIS system, but none of the money was passed on to schools.
The technical problems with SEVIS have lead to concerns that computer glitches might jeopardize a student’s status. To protect students from these potential problems, MU and Columbia College have developed an administrative hold that will prevent international students from dropping below a full course load or withdrawing from school without first meeting with an international student adviser.