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Recruiting Intelligence

NACAC 2023 Reflections


Most inspiring feature of NACAC ‘23: Angel Perez, NACAC CEO, interviewing Maryland Governor Wes Moore and US Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona in the opening Plenary for 7,000+ attendees. Representation matters.  

This conversation, in the way it was introduced by a power team of NACAC leaders and the dialogue that followed, demonstrates so very much about what we can do to move forward in the face of strong opposition. Bring our unrelenting energy and talent, grounded in the forthright presentation of ideas and ideals. Meet the challenge, whatever it may be, with unwavering, appreciative inquiry. Communicate the vision in ways everyone can understand. 

The conference that followed with all the sessions, networking, and the many interactions showed that NACAC has still got it. And the Baltimore Convention Center people flow worked better than many other large venues we’ve been to. Below we offer additional 2023 Enrollment Trend Observations and the slides from our presentation on the current state of the international enrollment. The data we share offers you an outstanding opportunity to benchmark your own institution against nearly 200 others. 

Opportunities to meet in person:

The Intead team is gearing up for some amazing presentations and we hope you can join us. 

  • CIEE 76th Annual Conference in Paris, Nov 8-10, 2023 
  • PIE News Live in Boston, Nov 13-15, 2023 
  • AIRC Annual Conference – we’ll be offering our full day digital marketing workshop here in Phoenix, Dec 6-9, 2023 
  • ICEF North America Workshop in Miami, Dec 10-13, 2023 

Let us know if you’ll come share a cup of coffee and a conversation about all things global and digital (info@intead.com

Intead’s presentation at NACAC 2023 with Robert Summers from Middle Tennessee State University and Jennifer Wright from AIRC was, of course, in the furthest most possible session room, and the A/C in the Convention Center seemed to get stronger and stronger the further you got from the entrance. So, we cheered when we saw 70+ attendees actually show up on the distant shores of room 348 and suffer through our data display in near arctic conditions. We thank you all! 

I exaggerate, of course. But it was pretty darn cold. And the data we presented wasn’t exactly warm and fuzzy. It is here and available for download in the link at the end of this blog post. Read on… 

We were honored to be offered a slot at NACAC 2023 to discuss the “Current State of the International Enrollment Field.” With our colleagues, we presented data from two studies coordinated by AIRC (one from 2022 with significant research support from Bonard and the other from 2018 conducted by the Intead team) offering insights into where and how SIOs and others responsible for international enrollment growth are investing their resources and developing relationships with international recruiting agents. 

Beyond benchmarking your institution against the practices of others, there was one stat from our research in 2018 that we find particularly insightful as you consider international collaborations: 

28% of education agents felt that cultural and language barriers prevent them from having effective relationships with institutions. Only 8% of their US university counterparts shared that feeling. That disparity right there points to some of the challenges and disconnects we all face as we seek to build a robust and valuable global recruitment program. 

Highlights from our presentation: 

Q: Where does international student recruitment activity reside in your org structure?  

Most common answer: 54% say in their Admissions Office (only 9% have a stand-alone unit devoted to this work). 

Q: Do colleagues at your institution understand the value of an agent network?  

Most common answer: 52% say yes. 

Q: How many staff spend 50% or more of their time on international student recruitment? 

Most common answer: 1 (34% at undergrad level) and None (40% at grad level, 54% for intensive language programs, and 73% for continuing ed programs). 

Q: Channels used to recruit international students? 

Most common answers: Virtual fairs (93%); In-person fairs (90%); Leverage current students to engage prospective students (88%); Digital marketing (85%). 

Q: Does your institution use commission-based education agencies? 

Most common answer: 62% say yes – but here’s the kicker – of the 38% saying no, 98% of them say they are considering it. 

Q: Do commission-based agencies send qualified candidates? 

Most common answer: 73% say yes. 

Q: Most preferred agent compensation model? 

Most common answer: 63% say post-enrollment per student fee. 

Q: Commission fee per student? 

Most common answer: 58% of institutions say 10-15% of 1st year tuition. 

Q: Main reason agents recruit students to the US? 

Most common answer: 54% say market demand/student preference. Only 9% say it is due to rankings of US institutions. Note that the survey respondents did not include agents from China which likely would have altered this result. 

Q: Agents’ biggest challenge in recruiting students to the US? 

Most common answer: 65% say cost of studying and living. 

Q: Most important attribute for agents considering partnering with an institution? 

Most common answer: Academic programs offered.  

Trust us, you’ll want to download the full slide deck for a much deeper and more nuanced perspective on some of these questions and the questions we did not include in the summary above. The last slide gives you access to even more of our findings. 

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