US schools step up commission based recruiting

By Rajkamal Rao 

Go back to What's Trending in the US

Regulars to our site know how controversial the practice of commission based recruiting is.  This is the practice of universities paying a commission to recruiters to encourage students to get into a particular school.  If the student completes a year of study, the overseas recruiter gets a commission from the school. We believe that this practice, in general, lowers student return on investment.  See Commission-Based Recruiting Agencies Lower Student ROI.

As universities continue to fight budget cuts both at the state and federal levels, they are resorting to more commission-based recruiting worldwide.  Cash from full-tuition paying international students has become such a vital source of funds for schools that universities are beginning to even set quotas to their commission agents to herd in more international students.  We have always said that US Higher Education is big business, but this trend is clearly sub-optimal for the international student.  The Times Higher Education magazine, a London based publication, has a story on Feb 28 on this very topic. 

EducationUSA, the excellent service sponsored by the US Department of State to help international students (and one that we highly recommend that international students use), makes it a policy to not work with paid agents.  As reported in the Chronicle of Higher Education, the State Department prohibits its EducationUSA student-advising centers from working with commercial recruiting agents who have contracts to represent specific American universities.  "We don't want there to be a sense of bias," said Diane Weisz Young, an EducationUSA program officer and the chair of the session on incentive-based recruiting, in explaining the policy. "Any partnering we would do with agents automatically would create a sense of bias."

Commission based agents are fighting back.  They have formed a standards group "American International Recruitment Council", which, despite their insistence, looks and feels like a lobbying arm.  In June 2012, the Chronicle reported that AIRC charged that the "U.S. Department of State has overstepped its authority in issuing a policy against the use of paid recruiters for overseas students."

Stay tuned.  Things can only get more interesting.

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