EducationUSA Fairs: The Importance of In Country Follow-Up

new edusa logoEducationUSA fairs in Viet Nam and other countries can be a cost-effective way to recruit students.  The location of the fairs and the network of the local EducationUSA office that organizes the events determine who comes, more or less. 

As I’ve written before, sometimes the goals of the US State Department and recruiters diverge.  For example, one of the goals of the former is outreach and the exercise of soft power.  This means that they occasionally organize fairs in locations that are not promising in terms of ability to pay and therefore realistic interest in study in the USA. 

The role of EducationUSA is simple.  Organize an event that offers decent quantity and, more importantly, quality attendance.  What about post-fair follow-up?  Obviously, EdUSA advisers promote study in the USA as a whole and not individual institutions. 

While US colleagues follow up in English, that is not enough.  They need to have someone contact students in Vietnamese, starting with the “hot leads,” via email, telephone and, if possible, Facebook, the #2 website in Viet Nam.  This will greatly increase the chances of converting leads into applications and admits. This can be done by trusted education agents or other in country representatives.  

Peace, MAA

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ACICS Loss of Accreditation: What it Means for Schools & International Students

acics-loss-of-accreditation
Facebook post on 22.12.16  by EducationUSA

Here is the official announcement from the US Department of Homeland Security that the US Department of Education no longer recognizes the Accrediting Council for Independent Colleges and Schools (ACICS) as an accrediting agency, a decision that affects more than 16,000 international students in the US attending nearly 130 Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP)-certified schools and programs that are accredited by ACICS. (There are also implications for the significantly higher number of US Americans students enrolled in these mostly for-profit schools.)

This is an issue I’ve been writing and talking about for a long time, including in the hallowed pages of this blog. The only reason it has come to this is because of the crack investigative reporting of BuzzFeed and the fact that a couple of political leaders, one at the state and another at the national level, took an interest in the sordid results of this long-term lack of oversight.  ACICS essentially dug its own grave by not minding the store. The gig is finally up.

Here’s a blog post I wrote last summer about this reporting and Northwestern Polytechnic University in Fremont, CA.  There are others.  Consider my post an introduction to the rather large elephant in the room, which DHS and EducationUSA chose to ignore.

Another pending issue is the fact that a number of SEVP-certified  schools are not accredited, which means there is no quality assurance or maintenance.  As the announcement points out, “Most SEVP-certified schools are not required to obtain accreditation and can provide evidence in lieu of accreditation.”  To be continued…

MAA

Fall 2015 EducationUSA Higher Ed Fairs: Location, Location, Location?

Tuesday, October 6th: HO CHI MINH CITY
Wednesday, October 7th: CAN THO
Friday, October 9th: HUE

I must admit that I’m a bit baffled as to why EdUSA is organizing fairs in Can Tho and Hue.  Nice places to visit but not exactly hot “markets” for StudyUSA.  (At least one has quite a few students with a high visa denial rate because of the attempts on the part of many to use the F-1 as a ticket to emigration.  Google “sestak, hue, visa scam.”)

Ho Chi Minh City (HCMC) is a no-brainer but why not Hanoi, where the US Embassy organized a very successful US higher education fair last January? What about Danang, where there’s a lot of interest in StudyUSA, a growing ability to pay and a paucity of events?  (Most colleagues fly over Danang on their way to events in the country’s two largest cities, i.e., markets.)

new edusa logo

It’s like an experiment though one not likely to be successful if student recruitment is your goal.  From the official (EdUSA/State Department) perspective it’s yet another opportunity to exercise soft power in places other than Hanoi and HCMC, and to do so on the dime of the participating US colleges and universities.  What’s not to like – from an official perspective?

At 1k per school it’s quite inexpensive – a chance to discover why those may be your first and last fairs in two off-the-beaten path locations that are worth visiting and maybe recruiting in on a targeted basis but probably not fertile recruitment grounds via traditional fairs.  Let me know!  Prove me wrong!

MAA

 

Fraud Alert!

pig-lipstick

Sleazydishonest or immoral; marked by low character or quality

  • Synonyms:  skanky [slang], slatternly, sluttish, slutty, trampy
  • Antonyms:  excellent, fine, first-class, first-rate, good, high-grade, superior, top-notch

125px-Flag_of_California.svgYes, dear reader, here’s another story about a US institution of higher education that uses lies and deception as key tactics in its aggressive student recruitment strategy in Vietnam and elsewhere.  And, yes, it’s based in the great state of California (sorry, CA friends!), home to Hollywood, some of the nation’s finest climates, one of the breadbaskets of the world and a motley crew of unaccredited and nationally accredited (NA) institutions, i.e., for-profit education companies, in most cases.  In the interest of time, let me just mention three examples about this NA school:

  1. Claims to have a letter from the US President congratulating its students on their graduation.  Of course, the image on their website is so small that it’s hard to see what Mr. President wrote and it doesn’t appear to be real White House stationery.
  2. Has its name on an office building it claims to be its campus.  Nothing unusual, right?  The only problem is the name is photoshopped onto a building in which it probably has a suite of offices and classrooms.  This is well beyond exaggeration.  False advertising, anyone?
  3. Has a senior administrator who was previously a senior administrator with an unaccredited, CA-based institution.  A leopard can’t change its spots, as the saying goes.

By the way, since said NA school is “officially accredited”, it has the right to be represented and promoted by the US government, including the Departments of State (i.e., EducationUSA) and Commerce (Commercial Service).  In case you’re wondering, it’s also SEVIS-approved, meaning it’s authorized to issue I-20s, which enable international students to apply for a student visa.  Put that in your pipe and smoke it!

fraudI will not mention the name of the offending institution only to say that I’ll be updating my list of nationally accredited US schools doing business, or trying to do business, in Vietnam in the near future.  At that time, you can use your formidable powers of deduction to figure it out.  Once you do, you can post a comment that says something to this effect:  “No shit, Sherlock.”

By the way, a little birdie told me that some doors are closing for this sad excuse for a university in Vietnam and that’s a good thing.  Hurray for a small measure of justice in a largely unjust world!

MAA

RA, NA & EducationUSA: Mixing Apples & Oranges

It’s always been a mystery to me why EducationUSA (i.e., the US State Department – on behalf of the US Government – on behalf of the American taxpayer) represents all “officially accredited” institutions of higher education in its 400+ advising centers around the world.  After all, there is absolutely no comparison between regionally accredited (RA) and nationally accredited (NA) schools, in terms of quality. 

It pains me to see two US universities side-by-side on an EducationUSA Facebook page, one accredited by The Higher Learning Commission (HLC) of the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools (NCA), one of the regional accrediting agencies, and the other by the Accrediting Council for Independent Colleges and Schools (ACICS), whose mission is “to advance  educational excellence at independent, nonpublic career schools, colleges, and organizations  in the United States and abroad.”

As I mentioned in a previous post, among the nearly 1000 institutions that ACICS has accredited are the Bergin University of Canine Studies, Golden State College of Court Reporting & Captioning, Golf Academy of America, ITT Technical Institute, Kaplan Career Institute, and the Le Cordon Bleu College of Culinary Arts, in addition a few that are active in Vietnam.  Many are for-profit companies.   

Case in Point

The EducationUSA-HCMC Facebook page recently posted information about scholarships offered by Virginia International University (VIU), an ACICS-accredited school in northern Virginia.  It also posted the following information from the school’s website in the form of a comment, effectively serving as a mouthpiece for VIU:  At VIU, we are committed to setting a new standard in higher education. Through our student-centered approach, we endeavor to provide the most positive environment for learning available anywhere… 

Below VIU were a post and comment about the University of Evansville, “a modestly-sized, independent, United Methodist affiliated liberal arts university located in Evansville, Indiana” that happens to be regionally accredited.  (This university also offers scholarships for international students.)   

What are the key differences between these two institutions?  One is cost – VIU’s annual undergraduate tuition is $8,328 per year while Evansville’s is $30,556.  The other is the type of institutional accreditation.  What they have in common is that both are “officially accredited” and promoted by their country’s government worldwide.   What a bargain, right?  The fact that Evansville is regionally accredited and VIU is nationally accredited, galaxies apart in terms of quality assurance across the board, is not taken into consideration.  From the perspective of students and parents outside of the US they are similar and comparable

This is not likely to happen in my lifetime but here is what should happen, IMHO:  the US government should represent only the gold standard of US higher education, which means regionally accredited colleges and universities.  Don’t pretend that NA schools are somehow in the same league as their RA cousins and don’t actively promote them as a valued US export.  With the marketing money at their disposal NA institutions are more than capable of doing that on their own.   

MAA

Point/Counterpoint

This is an exchange of comments that appeared in response to a late July article entitled SUNY Bets Big on Agents that appeared in Inside Higher Ed.  The article is about “an ambitious agency-based recruitment strategy, with the goal of increasing its total foreign student enrollment by more than 13,000 over five years. A portion of new tuition revenue would be used for funding internationalization initiatives – including 3,400 scholarships for study abroad and 125 grants for faculty. “ 

 Point:  Enforcing the impossible; there are alternatives  

Posted by Marty Bennett , Marketing Coordinator at EducationUSA on July 26, 2011 at 2:15pm EDT

In the end, there is a clear alternative to agents: EducationUSA, the U.S. Department of State’s network of 400 advising centers in 170 countries, serving as the official source on U.S. higher education for students in those countries. This professionally trained group of advisers serve as what we would call in the U.S. college guidance counselors for all the students who don’t have them in their schools (which is the greater majority). In all their training their mission is to provide accurate, unbiased, comprehensive, objective and timely information about accredited educational institutions in the United States and guidance to qualified individuals on how best to access those opportunities. I encourage all U.S. institutional admissions representatives to explore the ways EducationUSA can assist you in your recruitment of international students before opening Pandora’s Box of agents.

If Only It Were That Simple (aka The Other Shoe Drops)

Posted by Mark Ashwill , Managing Director at Capstone Vietnam on September 4, 2011 at 6:30am EDT

Mr. Bennett begins his comment (“Enforcing the impossible; there are alternatives”) with this bold but unsupported assertion: “In the end, there is a clear alternative to agents: EducationUSA.” If only it were that simple. Anyone who works in this field knows that EducationUSA is a bit player in most countries, one of many options available to “consumers” of US higher education.

As much as I admire the work of EducationUSA advisers, the number of people they serve is relatively small, the resources they command are extremely limited and the services they provide are very basic. Vietnam is an excellent case in point. There’s only so much that one adviser in the Embassy (Hanoi) and two in the Consulate General (Ho Chi Minh City) can do in a country of 90 million that suffers from an incurable case of study abroad fever and where the US is the preferred overseas study destination.

Most young people planning to study overseas engage the services of an agent – some reputable, others not (hence the need to professionalize the industry). A growing number simply apply on their own with the help of friends, student organizations (e.g., VietAbroader) and/or US institutions.

As others have noted, in order to be successful in recruiting students, US schools must make recruitment a key component of their internationalization strategies and adopt diversified approaches that could include the judicious use of agents (passive), marketing (proactive) and, yes, taking advantage of the services offered by EducationUSA.  To put all of their eggs in one basket would be pure folly.

Mark A. Ashwill
Hanoi, Vietnam
Blog:  https://markashwill.wordpress.com/