This week, we are taking a look back at one of the more controversial topics (still!) in international recruitment – the use of agents.
Originally, we 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…the debate wasn't quite over, for some.
We’ve all heard the education agent debate—how do I find and sustain ethical and productive 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? (Because we all know there are some bad actors out there).
This week we are taking a look at the regulations and a few of the underlying arguments and the evidence on either side.
In September of 2016, 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.
Then, in April of 2017, 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. That objection eventually died on the vine.
Add to that the changes 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) recently released a 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 in 2017 identified that 50% of international students find education agents helpful as they evaluate their options. And our sample size? More than 1M students surveyed resulted in 57,000+ student responses from 65 countries! (Find the link to our slides below). Those results are some of the most substantial and reliable in our industry.
Bottom Line: While the use of education agents by U.S. institutions is on the rise (considerably!), 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.