“Imagine a World Without Agents, We Wonder If You Can”

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Students occasionally ask one co-author, who has lived and worked in Viet Nam since 2005, whether or not they can apply directly. The answer is an enthusiastic ‘Yes’, if they feel sufficiently confident.

The original working title, Imagine… – with a grateful nod to John Lennon – was probably too long, which is why the editor changed it to Ethical agents should support direct student admissions.  (Yes, Imagine was intended to be provocative but not clickbait. :-)) 

Actually, Eddie West and I are referring not only to agents but to everyone involved in international student recruitment.  While direct application is not for everyone, as we point out, it is a trend we see in Viet Nam and elsewhere among certain types of students and parents, and one we should encourage.  

This article is the third in a trilogy about what we identify as the “fatal flaw” in commissions-based recruitment.  The other two – in descending chronological order – are as follows:

International recruitment – Are education agents welcome? (8.3.19)

An ethical approach to commissions-based recruitment (26.10.18)

We will be discussing these issues at NAFSA in two events, the first an unofficial seminar and the second a general session.  Follow this link for more information, including online registration for the two seminars.  

Shalom (שלום), MAA

Mark Ashwill @ NAFSA 2019

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Dear Friends & Colleagues,

I’m excited to inform you that I’ll be participating in four (4) events at the NAFSA 2019 annual conference in late May in Washington, D.C., listed below in descending chronological order.  Note:  Online registration is required for the two seminars.  

Shalom (שלום), MAA


4th Annual Viet Nam Recruitment Seminar at NAFSA 2019 (unofficial, pre-conference event on Monday, May 27th from 1-3 p.m. in Washington, D.C.)

The Viet Nam Recruitment Seminar consists of a comprehensive overview of current market conditions, recruitment tools and techniques, and different types of recruitment strategies, plus plenty of time for Q&A.  These are challenging times for international student recruitment, including in Viet Nam, with a rapidly changing market and more competition than ever. While more Vietnamese students are opting to study overseas, a perfect storm has been brewing for some host countries, combined with a growing list of positives and pull factors for others.

The reason I began offering this free seminar starting in 2016 in Denver was that I noticed that Viet Nam, a strategically important country, was underrepresented, if represented at all, at NAFSA annual conferences.  This year is no exception.  Enter “Vietnam” in a keyword search in the conference schedule and let me know what you find.  

Please follow this link for more information and online registration.  A heartfelt thanks to Study in the USA for its sponsorship.  


Ethical Commissions-Based Recruitment: The Need for a New Way (unofficial, pre-conference event on Monday, May 27 from 3:30-5 p.m. in Washington, D.C.)

Join me, Eddie West, assistant dean, UC Berkeley Extension, and executive director, international programs, and former director of international initiatives at the National Association for College Admission Counseling (NACAC), and Lindsay Addington, director of global engagement at NACAC, for a brief presentation and collective exploration of ways to improve upon the current flawed model of agency-based international student recruitment. 

The raison d’être for this seminar is a statement Eddie and I made in an October 2018 University World News article entitled An ethical approach to commissions-based recruitment

The fatal flaw in commissioned recruitment is that most agents prioritise their partner schools’ interests over those of the students and parents they advise. This means that most guide or, in many cases, drive students to their partner schools because of the gold (commission) at the end of the rainbow (enrolment process). 

The purpose is not to debate the merits of commissions-based recruitment but to bring together colleagues who are interested in exploring ways in which it can be made more ethical to the benefit of international students and their parents, in addition to admitting institutions and education agents. 

Follow this link for more information and online registration.  A heartfelt thanks to Study in the USA for its sponsorship.  


Commissions-Based International Student Recruitment Agents: Is There a Better Way?  (Wednesday, May 29 from 10:00 a.m.-11:00 a.m.)

AC19_Email_Sigs_PresenterJoin me, Eddie West, session chair and executive director, international programs, University of California-Berkeley Extension, and Mayumi Kowta, director, international programs, California State University Channel Islands, for a lively discussion about how the “fatal flaw” in commissions-based recruitment can be addressed.  
 
Follow this link to see the official conference description of our session, including the abstract and the learning objectives.  This is a condensed version of the Monday seminar.  


Vietnamese Student Recruitment in Challenging Times  (Wednesday, May 29 from 11:00 a.m.-12:30 p.m. at the Model Practices in International Enrollment Management Poster Fair)

Abstract

Gain knowledge and insights from a foreign international educator and education entrepreneur who has lived and worked in Viet Nam since 2005. This poster session will focus on how to create and implement a proactive recruitment strategy that includes commission-based recruitment, armchair tools and techniques, and in country activities.

Poster Content: Takeaways

1) an update on the status of young Vietnamese studying overseas, including information changes in country preference;
2) an inventory and description of various non-commission-based recruitment tools and techniques; and
3) some information and caveats about commissions-based recruitment.

Learning Objectives

1) Learn about recent facts, figures, and trends related to Vietnamese students studying overseas at both the secondary and postsecondary levels;
2) learn about a wide variety of recruitment tools and techniques, most unrelated to the use of education agents;
3) be well-positioned to either improve fine-tune an existing recruitment strategy or create a new one.  

Commissions-Based International Student Recruitment Agents: Is There a Better Way?

Wednesday, May 29, 10:00 AM – 11:00 AM

 

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If you’re planning to attend the 2019 annual conference of NAFSA:  Association of International Educators in Washington, D.C. and you’re interested in this topic, mark your conference calendar!  

Join me, Eddie West, session chair and Executive Director, International Programs, University of California-Berkeley Extension, and Mayumi Kowta, Director, International Programs California State University Channel Islands, for a lively discussion about how the “fatal flaw” in commissions-based recruitment can be addressed.  For more information about this, check out a 10-18 article that Eddie and I wrote, An ethical approach to commissions-based recruitment.  

Follow this link to see the official conference description of our session, including the abstract (also below) and the learning objectives.  

More colleges and universities are contracting with commissions-based student recruitment agents than ever before. This development is great news for agents, and mostly good news for their partner schools. But for students being advised by agents the experience encompasses the good, the bad, and the ugly. Can we do better?

Shalom (שלום), MAA

 

“The shift of Vietnamese students to Canada marches on”

20190320083629583_5Here is my latest essay for University World News.  If you like the teaser below, follow this link to read the article in its entirety.  This is a follow-up to an April 2018 article I wrote entitled Vietnamese students look at the US and head north (editor’s title).  

I placed a gentleman’s bet with myself that the number of young Vietnamese studying in Canada would top 20,000 last year. Based on the latest statistics for 2018 released by Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada, it looks like I won, much to the dismay of Canada’s main friendly competitor for Vietnamese students, the United States of America. 

Shalom (שלום), MAA

“International education ‘number one priority’ for US bureau”

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At the February IIE Summit 2019, Marie Royce, Assistant Secretary, Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs (ECA), US State Department, told her audience that international education is the #1 priority for ECA.  Her deputy, Caroline Casagrande, confirmed that “additional resources” have been obtained to promote outbound and inbound study abroad.  What “additional resources,” I wonder? 

In terms of inbound students, I’m afraid the horse has left the barn and that whatever support the US State Department has to offer is too little, too late.  The elephant in the room of the IIE Summit was, of course, Donald Trump and MAGA, who really don’t care about international students, at best.  Naturally, no one at IIE can say that because one of the golden rules in the NGO world is “don’t bite the hand that feeds you.”  Since IIE received 78.2% of its 2017 revenue from “government grants,” that’s a lot of food!  (That percentage was once heading south in the interest of diversification, i.e., don’t put too many of your budgetary eggs in one basket – to the credit of IIE – but I guess some things are not meant to be.)  

In fact, the view of the vocal nativist minority may shift from not caring to wanting to fewer international students to study in the US following in the footsteps of a recent survey in Australia in which 54% of the respondents, admittedly barely a simple majority, thought that international student numbers should not be increased.  

If international education is going to be the “number one priority” for the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs (ECA), it is probably in word only.  As usual, US educational institutions are on their own and, in fact, are saddled with the additional burden of having to work against the negatives that have piled up during the Trump administration in- and outside the Beltway.  

Following a point/counterpoint format, here are some additional observations:

“We face growing international competition to attract the world’s globally mobile students. While we are already making great strides to respond to these new challenges, we must step up our game.”  What are the “great strides” ECA is making, pray tell?

“At ECA our goals are clear,” said Royce, underlining that US government is committed to both outbound and inbound exchanges – and explaining that president Donald Trump began penning letters to all US Department of State exchange participants in 2018.  A symbolic act that, in Trump’s case, only means he likes to see his name appear in as many documents as possible.

ECA also “actively supports” America’s competitive education advantage through its Education USA network, which operates in 180 countries, with 435 centres and 550 advisors to promote American colleges and universities abroad, she reminded.  While EducationUSA is useful, it is hardly a competitive advantage.  On a related issue, I hope ECA thinks long and hard about its decision to work with education agents, embraced by the pro-agent crowd but not by EducationUSA in the field.    

However, cost is a “leading reason that students decide not to pursue US study” Royce said, and ECA “wants to raise awareness abroad that there are study options at many price points”.  Cost is one of many factors contributing to the steady decline of international students choosing the USA as an overseas study destination.  Others include gun violence, the widespread perception that the US is not as open and welcoming as it once was and, in the case of countries, Trump himself, who has insulted a long and growing list of peoples and countries.    

The fact that IIE awarded ECA the first centennial medal is yet another example of that organization kissing the hand that feeds, given how much of IIE’s budget still comes from the US State Department.  

Finally, as with the rhetorical open arms embrace of education agents, announced by the same two ECA political appointees last December, we’ll have to wait and see if they’re planning to walk the walk.  If so, what will the impact be, if any?  I won’t hold my breath.  The latest is that EducationUSA may provide training to education agents.  That could be a good thing if it’s done in the right way and agents are probibited from using text or images from such events in an attempt at honor by association.  As mentioned in a recent co-authored article, the devil is in the details.  

Postscript:  Meanwhile, on the other side of the pond, the UK government has published a new International Education Strategy that outlines “plans to increase students numbers and income generated from international education.”  While I’d prefer less emphasis be placed on the revenue benefit of hosting large numbers of international students, I understand that’s the key selling point for most policymakers.  Having said that, the UK and other governments that value international students have something that the US government does not currently have – a STRATEGY.  

Shalom (שלום), MAA

 

Unofficial, Pre-Conference Seminar About Commissions-Based Recruitment @ NAFSA 2019

 Ethical Commissions-Based Recruitment:  The Need for a New Way

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Join Mark Ashwill, managing director and co-founder of Capstone Vietnam, a full-service educational consulting company in Viet Nam and former country director of the Institute of International Education-Viet Nam,

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Eddie West, assistant dean, UC Berkeley Extension, and executive director, international programs, and former director of international initiatives at the National Association for College Admission Counseling (NACAC),

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and Lindsay Addington, director of global engagement at NACAC, for a lively discussion and exploration of ways to improve upon the current flawed model of agency-based international student recruitment. 

The brief presentation and discussion are based on this statement, which Ashwill and West made in an October 2018 University World News article entitled An ethical approach to commissions-based recruitment

The fatal flaw in commissioned recruitment is that most agents prioritise their partner schools’ interests over those of the students and parents they advise. This means that most guide or, in many cases, drive students to their partner schools because of the gold (commission) at the end of the rainbow (enrolment process). 

[The second co-authored article in a three-part series was published on 8 March, also by University World NewsInternational recruitment – Are education agents welcome?]

The purpose of this seminar is not to debate the merits of commissions-based recruitment but to bring together colleagues who are interested in exploring ways in which it can be made more ethical to the benefit of international students and their parents, in addition to admitting institutions and education agents. 

This special event will be held from 3:30-5 p.m. on Monday, May 27, 2019 in downtown Washington, D.C.  (The exact location will be sent to all confirmed participants.) 

The seminar is free of charge and refreshments will be served. Online registration is required.

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A heartfelt thanks to Study in the USA for its sponsorship! 

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Related Announcement:  Eddie West, Mark Ashwill, and Mayumi Kowta will talk about Commissions-Based International Student Recruitment Agents: Is There a Better Way? at a general session from 10-11 a.m. on Wednesday, May 29 at NAFSA 2019.  

US Student Visa Update from Viet Nam: So Far, So Good in FY19

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I know it’s only four months into the 2019 US government fiscal year (FY19) but I look for trends wherever I can find them, even if they’re just beginning to take shape.  Based on US State Department statistics, the number of student visas issued from October 2018 to January 2019 by US Mission-Viet Nam, which includes the Embassy in Hanoi and the Consulate in Ho Chi Minh City (HCMC), pretty much mirror those of the same period last year.  (Overall, 5.9% fewer F-1s were issued in 2018 than in FY17, based on a slightly revised final tally.)  This is a tentatively positive sign, at least for the first quarter of this fiscal year and in view of substantial decreases from other major sending countries and a downward trend in F-1 issuances.  Each month is linked to a PDF download of the relevant statistics for Viet Nam and other countries.  

October 2018: 206 vs. 275 in 10-17

November 2018: 390 vs. 364 in 11-17

December 20181,077 vs. 1,299 in 12/17

January 2019 1400 vs. 1165 in 1/18

For what it’s worth, this amounts to a statistically insignificant decrease of 1% rounded up.  While the December issuances were down, they rebounded in January to the tune of 20% over 2018.  At this point, we’ll have to wait until “high season”, i.e., from May-August, to see what’s really happening and what the prospects are for the 2019/20 academic year and beyond.  So far, so good for those US colleagues who recruit in Viet Nam.  Stay tuned!  

Source:  Monthly Nonimmigrant Visa Issuance Statistics

Shalom (שלום), MAA