Commissioned Recruitment Agents: A Policy Shift

February 5, 2019
  • Admissions and Recruitment
  • International Admissions and Credential Evaluation
light blue background with 3 white petals going straight and 1 red petal veering off to the side For some colleges and universities partnering with commissioned agents to recruit international students is part of a multifaceted admission strategy. This is a highly debated topic with many in the field of International Education drawing hard ethical lines on the practice. 

EducationUSA, a U.S. Department of State network of over 425 international student advising centers in more than 175 countries, has expressed fear over the use of agents. EducationUSA is not alone. The National Association for College Admission Counseling (NACAC) and many other prominent groups have also expressed concerns over the use of commissioned agents.

The concerns cover a breadth of issues but in short, opponents cite: 
  • the U.S. does not have the infrastructure to regulate agents, and the creation of new regulatory processes would be difficult and  
  • commission-paid agents are incentivized to present students with colleges offering the highest commission to meet a quota as opposed to the best option for the student

A policy shift

In December 2018, EducationUSA officials participated for the first time in the annual meeting of the American International Recruitment Council (AIRC), an association of universities that vets and certifies overseas recruitment agencies in a process modeled after accreditation. Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Academic Programs Caroline Casagrande's made the following statement: 

EducationUSA advisers around the world will continue to give top priority to working with prospective international students as well as working directly with accredited U.S. higher education institutions.At the same time, recognizing the important role of other stakeholders in this area, we have significantly expanded the information we make publicly available related to EducationUSA. We welcome agents and other professionals working with U.S. universities to access that information and use it in their work. We will include agents and other legitimate stakeholders working with U.S. universities in EducationUSA events and meetings. 

This announcement signaled a significant policy shift in the ongoing debate on the ethics of using commissioned agents in international student recruitment. Join AACRAO International and representatives from EducationUSA, AIRC and NACAC, in a free webinar to discuss what precipitated the policy shift and how AIRC and NACAC are addressing the shift in their work and with their members.


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