A special commission studying the use of commission-based recruitment of international students has urged the National Association for College Admission Counseling to lift a ban on the practice, while at the same time discouraging it. (Shift on Agents, Inside Higher Ed, 13.6.13)
Jekyll & Hyde Approach to Policy Statements
How much time and money were invested in arriving at this lame conclusion? Try to please everyone and you end up pleasing no one. Politics as the art of compromise set against a backdrop of potential legal action.
As Karin Fischer of The Chronicle of Higher Education noted in an article entitled In Report on Paying Foreign Recruiters, Admissions Panel All but Punts, After almost two years, it came down to one word. …In a split-the-difference report that attempts to mollify everyone but is likely to please no one, a commission named by the National Association for College Admission Counseling, or NACAC, has recommended that the organization change its policies to state that members “should not” pay commissions to international-student recruiters, from the current “may not.” If colleges opt to pay so-called incentive-based compensation, the report says, they should be transparent and have strict accountability requirements in place.
The headline on the NACAC website reads “NACAC Releases International Student Recruitment Report Report Calls for New Standards for Transparency, Integrity and Accountability. I think we can all agree on the importance of the holy trinity of TIA, along with high standards and quality. This is best achieved by constructively engaging “paid agents” not banning their use. Hold them to high standards as a condition of doing business.
On a side note, it sounds as if NACAC is reinventing the wheel that the American International Recruitment Council (AIRC) painstakingly invented vis-à-vis standards and certification for education agents while managing to retain a rather large gray area. Find a way to work together, guys and gals.
What I find amusing and a little sad is that people who drone on about the “agent issue” have been behind the curve for quite some time. There are institutions of higher education that discovered a long time ago how to select and work with the best agents in key markets. Why not learn from them? In addition, agency-based recruitment, as I’ve mentioned here and elsewhere, has become passé in competitive markets. It’s just one tool among a number in a school’s international recruitment toolbox.
The one concern I have about most education agents is not that they receive a commission for sending students to partner schools (it is a business, after all) but that they drive them to partner schools in the first place. That’s the fundamental flaw in this approach to international student recruitment. Many agents limit their clients’ educational possibilities in the pursuit of profit. Question: who is the client, in this case – the student or the partner school? Unequivocal answer: students and their parents.
Business as a Two-Way Street
Another issue that is neglected in this debate is the transparency, integrity and accountability of some US institutions of higher education. My company, Capstone Vietnam, for example, works exclusively with regionally accredited schools and even among those we reserve the right to pick and choose our partners based on our own criteria. There are some schools that desperately want (and need) international students but are not ready to welcome them and provide them with a quality experience at all levels. They are not among our clients and partners.
Thank you, NACAC, for providing some closure on this issue and for injecting some levity into a long day.