The agent issue in the United States is reminiscent of those trick candles that delight children and some adults who are children at heart. You blow them out and they continue to ignite themselves – like magic! – using a fuse similar to those used in dynamite sticks.
Compared with their counterparts in Australia and the United Kingdom, US universities are relative latecomers to the wild and woolly world of commissions-based international student recruitment. In recent years steps have been undertaken to professionalise practice in the United States and equip institutions with the tools they need to engage recruitment agents responsibly.
But while those efforts represent progress, they clearly haven’t assuaged everyone’s concerns about the well-being of students who are, or should be after all, front and centre for those of us involved in educational advising and international student recruitment.
Last year, the Middle States Commission on Higher Education (MSCHE) rekindled the controversy surrounding the use of agents in a very public fashion. The regional accreditor released a draft policy that sought to stipulate that MSCHE-accredited institutions would be prohibited from paying incentive compensation for the recruitment of any student, domestic and international student alike.
Following a period of public comment, MSCHE agreed to conduct additional research, including a legal review of the draft policy, before taking further action.
As it turns out, MSCHE quietly decided to follow federal regulations that prohibit incentive compensation for the recruitment of domestic students but allow it when it comes to “foreign students residing in foreign countries who are not eligible” for Title IV student financial assistance. In other words, the commission backed down, essentially caving in to the demands of commission-based international student recruitment supporters.
MSCHE’s decision to permit the institutions in its purview to continue using per-capita commissions for the recruitment of international students parallels the road chosen by the National Association for College Admission Counseling (NACAC) in 2013.
After a period of extensive deliberation, the association concluded that “while NACAC should continue to be very cognisant of the potential effects of commissioned recruiting, it should also address the changing trends in international recruitment and lift the ban in favour of a best practice stance”.
Read more : Mark A Ashwill and Eddie West : University World News : 26 October, 2018