Recruiting Intelligence

Working with Education Agents: What Now?

We kinda thought this discussion was done when NACAC agreed that there was, in fact, an ethical way to engage agents to support your international student recruiting. Well…not so fast, for some.

We’ve all heard the education agent debate—how do I find and sustain ethical relationships that benefit both my institution and my prospective students? How do I know whether I am working with the right agents? And ultimately—is using agents worth the risk? This week we are taking a look at new regulations and a few of the underlying arguments and the evidence on either side.  

Last September, the National Association for College Admissions Counseling (NACAC) amended two parts in their guidance to U.S. educators on using education agents. This code of ethics, titled Statement of Principles of Good Practice (SPGP), was originally adopted in 2014. This document lays out the code of ethics and standards for the association and its members.

And more recently, in April, the U.S.-based Middle States Commission on Higher Education proposed new policy languages that would prohibit use of incentive-based compensation for international student recruitment.

Add to that the changes that are taking place in China and Vietnam around how these countries have recently relaxed regulations for recruiting agencies so that almost anyone can raise their hand and announce they are now a student recruiting shop.

Yet, the American Council on Education (ACE) just released their latest report on internationalization efforts by U.S. institutions and they shared this: In 2011, 17% of respondents were engaged with education agents compared with 45% in 2016. Hello!

Our own recent research with FPP EDU Media that we presented at NAFSA found that 50% of international students find education agents helpful as they evaluate their options. And our sample size? 57,000+ student responses from 65 countries! (Find the link to our slides below).

Bottom Line: While the use of education agents by U.S. institutions is on the rise, concerns about unethical practices are being addressed. Have you figured out where the best and most reliable agents are around the world? Is your institution too fearful of the downside? If so, you are probably not relying on THE recruiting channel that pretty much all institutions with any significant increase in international student population are using. And they use agents successfully. If your goal is to increase international student enrollment, ignore this recruiting channel at your own peril.

Read on to get some of the details of recent regulatory challenges and our insights into using agents to support your international student recruiting. This channel cannot be ignored. The risks are really only in whether you put the right processes in place to select and manage your recruiting team.

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