The Immigration and Naturalization Service plans to issue tough new regulations governing the 260,000 foreign students attending American schools to try to get better control over them.
Under one of the proposed regulations, foreign students would be required to apply for periodic extensions of their visas. Under the present rules, students basically are granted entry to the United States for as long as it takes to complete their studies.
In addition, INS officials say they will crack down on schools that fail to report changes in an alien's academic status, as required by law. The officials said that could include moving to revoke the federal authorization those schools have received that entitles their foregin students to student visas.
"There should be no difference between wealthy students and poor Mexican nationals in terms of reporting" to INS, said acting commissioner David Crosland. "We intend to publish regulations which would tighten up the whole control process for students and put a system into effect controlling at least one segment of the aliens who come here."
The move to control the foreign student population, which has grown from 154,600 college students in 1975 to 263,938 in 1979, is part of a broader INS effort to tighten the reins on aliens in this country.
INS also is replacing the old "green card" -- the permanent resident identity card -- with a new computerized card that INS believes will be virtually impossible to duplicate fraudulently when a nationwide computer system goes on line.
The system is now under study. Starting next month, the new cards will be issue to Mexican nationals who live in Mexico but commute daily to work in the United States. There is some discussion about some day issuing machine readable cards to all vistors to the United States.
"We're not going to end up with the same system they have in France or Germany," INS spokesman Vern Jervis said yesterday. "Tourists will never have to fill out police cards at every hotel they stop at. We won't have that simply because of the open society we are. We're not advocating it and it seems alien to our concept of freedom."
Crosland said that as the INS carried out President Carter's order to interview all Iranian students in this country it found its record-keepping and enforcement practices needed improvement.
"We plan to use the (Iranian) experience to develop a student control program which we (didn't have) in the past," he said. "With students, we have some idea where they should be."
Jervis and INS will also establish a central file to keep copies of all a student's records and documents.
Currently, a student who has attended schools in different parts of the country will have files in each of the regional INS offices serving the areas where he has stuided. Thus, Jervis, said, it is difficult to know the case history of any student without first searching files in several Ins offices.
Over the past 15 years, the number of foreign visitors to the United States has increased substantially. Several factors have lead to an even more impressive increase in the number of foreign students attending American schools -- an increase of as much as 55 percent over the past five years, according to one estimate.
The decline in the value of the dollar, which has made schooling and housing here cheaper than in the past, has encouraged many students, said Douglas R. Boyan, of the Institute of International Education.
In addition, he said, "we're beginning to see the coming of age of students from the developing countries who benefited from the tremendous improvements in education in their countries in the last 10 to 20 years. But they still do not have room in their universities to accommodate all of them."
The sudden growth in the wealth of the 13 OPEC countries has also helped. Since the early 1970s, those countries have sent so many students to American colleges that they now represent one-third of the foreign students in this country, Boyan said.
The decline or leveling off in the native-born U.S. student population has contributed, too, forcing many schools to look overseas for students to fill their seats and pay tuition. Now many schools actively recruit outside the United States.
These pressures have caused some problems, according to Jervis. "Some were sending over recruiters with blank I-20s (student immigration forms) and just handing them out when the student plunked his money down,' he said. They (the students) are not suppose to get those I-20s until after they've applied and been accepted" by the college.