Re: Still no consensus on the use of study agents to recruit international students.

This article was originally published in the Chronicle of Higher Education on June 1st, 2012.

The topic of working with agents continues to engender controversy and likely will never be resolved.   CA ETEC has working relationships with credible organizations such as ICEF who match vetted agents with schools who wish to recruit through study abroad agencies.  It is also our belief that organizations such as AIRC are serving a benefit to schools by providing some baseline standards of ethical behavior for study agents.

California ETEC also believes that schools should consider non-agent recruitment options.    We have developed a number of customized recruitment options for U.S. institutions in Asia, particularly in China and S.E. Asia, and will open VETEC in Ho Chi Min City to provide U.S. schools alternative promotion and recruitment options .   * A new model of recruitment outside of the traditional methods of using study agents or participating in high cost, low yield study fairs

 

June 1, 2012

State Dept. Draws Criticism Over Policy on Paid Recruiters of Foreign Students

By Karin Fischer

Houston

The U.S. Department of State has overstepped its authority in issuing a policy against the use of paid recruiters for overseas students.

That was the charge made during a panel discussion on Friday, the final day of the annual meeting of Nafsa: Association of International Educators.

Mitch Leventhal is a founder of the American International Recruitment Council, or Airc, a group that develops standards of ethical practices and a system for certifying overseas recruiters. Federal law says that government agencies should defer to industry-based standards, unless those standards are illegal or otherwise impractical, Mr. Leventhal said at a session on the pros and cons of working with agents.

So when the State Department issued a 2009 policy directive prohibiting its overseas EducationUSA student-advising centers from forming partnerships or working with recruitment agents paid on a per-student basis, Mr. Leventhal argued, the department was wrongly superseding the authority of Airc, which is registered with the U.S. Department of Justice and the Federal Trade Commission as a standards-development organization.

“We’re not a professional organization lobbying on behalf of a group. We’re not advocating on behalf of agents. We’re a standards-setting and regulatory body,” Mr. Leventhal said of Airc. He was the group’s first president and remains on its Board of Directors.

By setting a policy on agents for its overseas advisers, the State Department is establishing a “de facto standard” and has “directly undermined” Airc’s effort, said Mr. Leventhal, who is vice chancellor for global affairs at the State University of New York. Agents hired by his and other institutions are barred from popular overseas EducationUSA fairs.

According to the law, the State Department has to submit a report to the White House Office of Management and Budget explaining why its policy should be followed in place of voluntary industry-set standards, Mr. Leventhal said. He asked whether the State Department had applied for and received a waiver from the White House office.

Reached for a response, Meghann Curtis, deputy assistant secretary for academic programs at the State Department’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, said that the department was aware that there is “a lack of consensus” on the use of agents. “Our directive to the State Department-funded EducationUSA centers applies to advisers within our network,” she said in a written statement. “To meet the State Department’s public-diplomacy mission, EducationUSA provides comprehensive information to international students about the entire range of accredited U.S. colleges, universities, and programs in our effort to help students find the best possible match with their abilities, needs, and interests. Working with commission-based recruiters is inconsistent with this public-diplomacy mission.”

A Competitive Disadvantage

While Airc’s standards were unanimously approved by its members, there is hardly consensus on the use of paid recruiters, an issue that remains one of the most contentious in international education and admissions circles.

Mr. Leventhal and others who favor the use of agents argue that, by paying and regulating foreign recruiters, American institutions have greater control of the process. (Paying agents to recruit American students is not permitted by federal financial-aid law.)

Agents on the ground can better serve students and their families because they know the culture and are part of the community, supporters of paying agents say. And, they argue, American colleges are put at a competitive disadvantage if they don’t hire recruitment agents because they are used so widely by countries like Britain and Australia.

For their part, the State Department and other opponents of the practice say it puts a profit motive ahead of students’ interests. It’s wrong to restrict student options to colleges that offer monetary incentives, the critics say, and agents chasing commissions could press students to enroll in institutions merely to make a quota. That could harm the reputation of American education abroad, they fear.

A commission organized by the National Association for College Admission Counseling is now examining the issue and will make recommendations on international-student recruitment. The association had considered a proposal to immediately bar its member colleges from using commission-based agents but opted instead to convene a panel.

David Hawkins, the group’s director of public policy and research and a panelist at Friday’s discussion, said the NACAC committee, which held its first meeting in March, is continuing its deliberations and will meet again formally in October.

The admissions group, he said, had entered into the debate over payments for agents because more and more of its members are recruiting international students.

“We were asked to get involved by our members,” Mr. Hawkins said. “Many of our members are being not asked but told by their college presidents to go out and get foreign students.”

He added: “This is not theoretical. It is not esoteric. This is a practical debate.”

 

CA ETEC formalizes alliance with ICEF to help U.S. institutions meet vetted overseas study agents

 

2011 ICEF North American Workshop Miami, Florida

As part of its goal to promote the US as a study destination, CA ETEC is committed to the proliferation of resources and opportunities that give US education providers a competitive advantage in the international education market. As part of this mandate, CA ETEC maintains an alliance with ICEF; the world’s leading organizer of educator-agent networking events, including the ICEF North America Workshop, an event connecting US educators with fully vetted, international educational agents.

Since its first occurrence, the ICEF North America Workshop has expanded vigorously every year. In 2011, this workshop grew by an impressive 17%, stimulated by a 29% increase in the number of attending higher education institutions, who now constitute the largest educational sector represented at the workshop (38% – the other participants being evenly divided between secondary and language schools). This numbers demonstrate an unmistakable growing tendency among educators to embrace educational agents as a reliable source of high quality international students.

In total, the ICEF Miami 2011 Workshop hosted 661 participants, including 217 North American educational institutions (USA 151, Canada 55, International 11), 38 exhibitors and 304 student recruitment agents from 57 countries around the world.

These agents must pass a rigorous screening procedure in order to attend; among other things, they must submit detailed references from North American partners, and provide information on the number of students they have sent to North America in the last year.

The top Agent countries represented were: China, India, Russia, Brazil, Mexico, Colombia, Ecuador, Saudi Arabia, Canada, Turkey, Germany, UK, Vietnam, Ukraine, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan and Nigeria.

Access to high quality student recruitment agents is not the only reason why a large and increasing number of educators choose to attend ICEF events; participants at these workshops also benefit from market intelligence seminars and informal networking occasions, which provide market intelligence and insider tips for the critical edge in international student recruitment.

As part of the alliance with ICEF, CA ETEC attends the ICEF North America workshop as an exhibitor, which allows us to draw attention to our members and promote California as a study destination to hundreds of highly professional educational agents.

In addition, CA ETEC’s arrangement with ICEF allows us to provide participating institutions from California with advantageous pricing discounts.

The 2012 ICEF North America Workshop – Miami, will take place at Loews Miami Beach Hotel from December 02 – 04.

For more information on ICEF events go to www.icef.com, for special pricing available to CA ETEC members, contact Diana Forman at dforman@icef.com

Recruiting Students in Thailand- Fall Event Package in Bankgok, October 26-28th, 2012

OCSC Fair in Bangkok, Thailand

For the eighth consecutive year,  California ETEC( CA ETEC) is cooperating with the Thai Government,  Office of Civil Service Commission(OCSC) to coordinate a US presence and to maximize effectiveness of participation in the OCSC International Education Fair,  October 26-28th.  This annual event in Bangkok draws more than 25,000 student attendees and provides the opportunity  to meet individually with Thai Scholars ( top students granted full-ride scholarships from various Thai Ministries).

Full Support Package includes:

  • Individual appointments with Thai Scholars
  • Exclusive Study Agent Networking Event- pre-set meetings with TIECA study agents
  • Booth Registration
  • Localization package( including booth graphics and Thai-English interpreters)
  • Literature facilitation and other on-site logistical support

A follow-on promotion in Vietnam supported by CA ETEC’s VETEC Center                         ( www.vetecusa.com) is also available to U.S. schools.  

For further event details and registration please contact: info@vetecusa.com 


The LAND of Smiles for some U.S. Schools- A snapshot of the Thai Education Market

California ETEC has had a long association with the Thailand Office of Civil Service and the annual student fair they sponsor.  In the past seven years,  we have coordinated the exhibits of more than 40 U.S. schools at the annual OCSC Student Fair and an adjoining reception with TIECA Study Agents.   Literally we stumbled upon the OCSC Fair in 2004 and have made this event a staple of our S.E. Asia marketing campaign ever since.   While the OCSC Fair annually draws 25,000-30,000 students and is the primary platform by which the Thai Office of Civil Service connects more than 300 full-ride scholars with overseas institutions,  marketing in Thailand is not without challenges. In 2008 the OCSC Fair coincided political upheaval that shut Suvarnabhumi Airport and last October the event was postponed due to unprecedented  flooding in Thailand.  Despite these unconventional obstacles, a small core of U.S. schools continue to promote in Thailand and such perseverance  has led to recruitment success.   The latest Open Doors Reports indicated more than 10,000 Thai students are currently studying in the U.S. and this number has been remarkably consistent the past decade.

Thailand Education Market Summary

  •  Thai students offer diversity to already large and growing student populations from China, India and Korea.
  • Thais generally do not choose to attend U.S. Community Colleges, but the trend may be changing.
  • Demand for U.S. boarding schools is growing, but English speaking competitors are highly targeted in this market space.
  • Opportunities avail for schools who pay commissions to agents or can design marketing contracts in lieu of commissions. The Thai Overseas Education market is very mature and most successful recruitment campaigns are done with the aid of agents.

* If you are seeking introduction to vetted agents, please contact info@studycalifornia.org for a list of agents who attended the January 20th ETEC-TIECA Reception.