NAICU Washington Update

International Student Recruitment Commission Meets in D.C.

March 13, 2012

Out of concerns about incentive compensation for recruiters of international students, the National Association for College Admission Counseling recently convened a commission composed of experts on college admissions and international education to consider NACAC's current position on the issue.  The group includes a representative from NAICU, and admissions counselors and high-level administrators from several private colleges, including the University of Southern California, Vanderbilt, American, Guilford, Gannon, Butler, and Boston University. 

NACAC's current policy "bans the payment of commissions to admissions officers or their representatives based on the number of students recruited or enrolled."   With the increased interest in recruiting international students, however, some NACAC members sought clarification on whether this ban applied to international recruitment.  A number of colleges use third-party agents for their international recruitment, and some of these third parties are paid on a commission basis.  (U.S. law prohibits incentive compensation for the recruitment of domestic students but not international students.)  Until the commission completes its work, NACAC will keep the ban in place, but will not sanction any violators.

During their meeting in early March, members heard from representatives of U.S. agencies and foreign countries involved with international recruitment.  The Department of State bans incentive compensation for its grant programs, while the Departments of Commerce, Homeland Security, and Education do not.  The use of recruiting agents is integrated into the British and Australian higher education systems, which are highly regulated by the government.  Institutions there have significant responsibility for oversight of their agents. 

China actively selects and supports 10,000 study-abroad students from their own country, but many private agents are active there as well - many being paid by the students' parents.  Reportedly there are about 157,000 Chinese students at U.S. colleges and universities.  Several commission members noted that their institutions are seeing a troublesome rise in the number of Chinese students admitted with fraudulent credentials, and who can't speak English.

Following the panel presentations, commission members discussed the pros and cons of international student recruiters and alternatives for compensating them.  Members also considered how to improve oversight of the recruiters, including professional development and accreditation.  While a number of commission members expressed a growing acceptance of the use of agents, they also recognized the potential abuse inherent in incentive compensation.

The commission's next meeting is scheduled for September, with a final report and recommendations expected in mid- to late 2013.

MORE News from NAICU