“International recruitment offices in higher education are making big strides by partnering with agents”

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Now here’s something you don’t see every day, an advertorial or infomercial, if you will, in The Chronicle of Higher Education (CHE), the weekly “bible” of US higher education.  Here’s the deal:  IDP, in this case, pays a lot of money ($11k) to place an article about how great it is for colleges and universities to work with education agents as a key part of their international student recruitment strategy.   This benefits CHE’s bottom line and IDP pushes its message out to anyone who’s anyone in US higher education and beyond.

When I first saw the headline and the article, my first reaction was “Wow!”, until I saw this caveat in small print a split second later:  Paid for and created by IDP.  This issue and IDP acquire a patina of honor, credibility, and respect by publishing this piece of paid advertising in an august publication, while the latter gets a wire transfer, obviously the short end of a stick that measures important intangibles in life. 

Memo to CHE:  In the future, increase the font size of the disclaimer and put it in bold red.

MAA

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Meet the new boss, similar to the old boss: new agent regulations unveiled in Vietnam

logo-newerVietnam is a country in flux and the international education sector is no exception. In fact, it is a case study of changes and reforms. Mark Ashwill, the MD of Capstone Vietnam, looks at the current regulatory system for education agencies and what consultants must do to succeed in this exciting market.

This is the introduction to my latest PIE News blog post.  Follow this link to read the article in its entirety.

MAA

Decoding International Students’ Experiences With Education Agents: Insights for U.S. Institutions

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This is an excellent survey conducted by World Education Services (WES) about the use of education agents by students around the world – with the exception of Southeast Asia, the Middle East, and North Africa.

Here’s a brief note about their analysis, including some caveats.

Survey results are broken down by region of origin. We compare results for students from the top two sub-regions of origin – South and Central Asia, and East Asia – as well as from several major world regions: Sub-Saharan Africa, Europe, and Latin America and the Caribbean. *

The survey examines services used at different points in the enrollment funnel – discovery, application, and enrollment. It also provides insights into the different types of education agents used by international students in different parts of the world. These include institution-sponsored agents – those who receive commissions from or have a contract or agreement with U.S. institutions; and independent educational agents – those who are paid by the students and their families.

* Response rates from Southeast Asia, the Middle East, and North Africa were very low, thus findings are not discussed with one or two exceptions.

It paints a very mixed picture of agent use by survey respondents and highlights some of the fundamental flaws of agency-based recruitment. 

Follow this link to read the article in its entirety. 

As an aside, a recent trend I’ve noticed in Viet Nam is that of increasing numbers of students bypassing agents and applying directly to US colleges and universities.  (I view this as positive, by the way.)  Possible reasons include greater access to quality information and, consequently, more confidence on the part of students and their parents.  There is also the realization among many that the application procedures of some types of institutions are very simple.  Finally, many students have done their homework, know exactly where they want to go, and therefore have no need for an intermediary.  Survey, anyone?

MAA

The Education Agent Issue in the US: Like a Bad Penny

bad pennyIt’s reminiscent of those trick candles that delight children and adults alike.  (OK, some adults.)  You blow them out and they continue to relight themselves – like magic!  While the US was late to the agent debate, actions that have been taken to date, while most would agree represent progress, have clearly not assuaged everyone’s concerns about the academic well-being of students who are, or should be, after all, front and center for those of us who are involved in educational advising.  

With the recent Middle States Commission on Higher Education (MSCHE) draft policy (PDF), which would prohibit its accredited institutions from using incentive-based compensation in international student recruitment, it appears that “it ain’t over till it’s over” regarding this contentious issue.

MSCHE, which accredits 525 institutions in Delaware, Maryland, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Puerto Rico, the US Virgin Islands, and Washington, D.C., has essentially chosen to extend the Title IV restrictions on incentive-based compensation that apply to domestic student recruitment to international students.

msche logoAside from being a shot across the bow of supporters of agency-based recruitment, what are the practical implications of this policy move?  Will it make a difference?  Is this rule binding?  Probably not, but MSCHE-accredited institutions would be well-advised to follow it lest an infraction become a sticking point in their (re)accreditation.  Will the other regional accrediting agencies follow in MSCHE’s regulatory footsteps?  Only time will tell. (Regional accreditation is the gold standard of institutional accreditation in the US.)

Once again, this raises a fundamental question that advocates of commission-based recruitment tend to ignore, or believe can be addressed with band-aid solutions that often amount to nothing more than window dressing.  Is it even possible to regulate this often shady global industry?  Stay tuned!

MAA

NACAC Takes Step in the Right Direction

Admissions group calls on colleges to require recruiting agents to disclose their financial ties to those they are seeking to recruit.

d4c4zsvf_400x400_1I’m happy to see NACAC (National Association for College Admission Counseling) moving in this direction.  Ultimately, of course, it’s up to institutions to hold their education agents to high standards using a multifaceted carrot/stick approach.  The good news is that most US higher education colleagues care.  The uncomfortable truth is that some do not.  The latter care more about student referrals than they do about business ethics or integrity.  For them it’s all about “showing me the students,” even if they have to wash their hands (or take a shower) after meeting with their less-than-stellar agents.

Follow this link to read the article in its entirety.

MAA

“Take responsibility for ensuring ethical recruitment”

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Using education agents is fraught with risks, but those with a long-term vision realise that doing business ethically is better for business, so how do you choose wisely and ensure accountability?

Here’s my latest University World News piece, this time about ethical international student recruitment.  I wrote it in direct response to a July 2016 article entitled Internationalisation should be ethical and for all by Hans de Wit, director of the Center for International Higher Education at Boston College.  One of his proposed black/white solutions was, in effect, to throw the baby out with the bathwater, before quickly (and realistically) acknowledging that “This is not likely to happen.”

What is the solution?

It would be in the interests of governments, universities and students if the participation of commercial recruiters, for-profit pathway providers and other intermediate businesses was stopped.

Here’s the introduction to my article to whet your appetite (or not):

It has been argued, in University World News and elsewhere, that the way to address the problem of unethical student recruitment agencies is to ban them.  But are all education agents inherently bad?  No.  Are there serious issues and potential pitfalls?  Absolutely.  While I agree that education agents should follow ethical business practices, I disagree that the solution is not to use any of them.

You can see that there were different takes (and takeaways), depending upon the interests and goals of the entity doing the Tweeting.

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Follow this link to read the article in its entirety.

MAA

Choosing Clients & Partners is a Two-Way Street: Quality Matters

Money is how companies with no ethical compass measure success.2-way-street

The company I work for, Capstone Vietnam, a full-service educational consulting company founded in 2009, with offices in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City (HCMC), works exclusively with regionally accredited (RA) institutions of higher education in the US.  As far as I know, it’s the only company in Viet Nam, and indeed the world, that has this policy. (If you know of another, let me know!  A prize to the first person whose answer I’m able to confirm.)

Why?  Because quality and integrity are more important than money.  Since regional accreditation is the gold standard of institutional accreditation in the US, students and parents can be assured that minimum standards of quality have been met and maintained.  US higher education fair attendees can be assured that there are no “bad apples” in the ballroom.  US higher education colleagues who choose to work with the company can be assured of honor by association. Capstone has politely declined to work with quite a few schools because the company you keep and the standards you uphold take precedence over cash flow.

Nationally accredited (NA) institutions, while “officially accredited,” are not in the same academic league as their RA cousins.  In fact, in terms of quality and ethics, some of them comprise a veritable rogue’s gallery of schools, including those that are essentially visa mills.  Moreover, the majority of these schools do not inform students and parents that most RA institutions will not accept credits and credentials transferred from NA schools.  Why is that, I wonder?

gold-standardFor most educational consulting companies, it’s all about “showing me the money”, which means they’ll work with anyone who can afford to pay them, including rogue providers (unaccredited schools), in some cases.  Money is how companies with no ethical compass measure success.  For Capstone, it’s about quality first, which I find refreshing in the often murky and foul world of educational consulting.

MAA