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EducationUSA “not supporting us fully”, say schools

US universities have told The PIE News that Education USA, the state body tasked with promoting US education abroad, is failing to support them fully, because it refuses to work with education agents or to attend agent-backed fairs.

"Without us all working together, we’re behind the game because other countries are doing it, and doing it so well”

In addition they say the body, which operates in 170 countries, is not coordinating properly with other government departments which do tolerate agents, such as the US Department of Commerce.

At a fair in Israel last week organised by the agency UStudy, a representative of one of America’s largest universities said Education USA’s stance was leaving US schools at a disadvantage.

“It would be really nice to see the different departments of the US governments coming together to support what we’re trying to do”

“I would like to see some more coordination,” she said. “It would be really nice to see the different departments of the US governments coming together to support what we’re trying to do in the market. Without us all working together, we’re behind the game because other countries are doing it, and doing it so well.”

She complained that the US Department of Commerce was present at the UStudy fair, but Education USA, which is run by the Department of State, was not. She and others say this means losing the “value add” Education USA provides, including explaining the US education system to students at presentations; providing universities with market intelligence; or offering schools a united marketing umbrella.

The source flagged the British Council, which trains and certifies agents, and Canada, which has backed an agent training scheme, as examples Education USA could heed from. “Right now they are cutting out a huge proportion of stakeholders that many American universities are working with,” she said.

The pathway provider INTO University Partnerships said it had also noticed a disparity between Education USA’s policy in different countries, with agents tolerated in some cases, not in others. Marielle Van Der Meer, assistant recruitment director, UK and Europe, added that the body had been resistant to INTO, even though it operated joint ventures with a number of state universities in the US.

“We’ve actually been refused the right to represent our universities at events, even after their provosts have written letters authorising us to do so,” she said.

“There are always bad agents but they are the exceptions… But Education USA now see these as the rule”

The situation could be aggravated if the National Association for College Admission Counselling (NACAC) rules later this year that its members – comprising most US universities – can no longer use commission-based foreign recruiters. Resistance to the proposal has been strong, however, and NACAC has agreed to hold a sector review before any decision is made.

Education USA for now backs the Association. A spokesperson told the PIE that it felt partnering with agents clashed with its goal to provide advice about the full range of options in US HE, and that it ethically disagreed with all agent commissions. (Currently it is only illegal to pay commissions for placing US citizens and permanent residents). It did not comment on why the US Department of Commerce could attend agent-backed fairs and Education USA could not.

Some schools did say that backing agent-run fairs risked accusations of favouritism towards certain agents in given markets. All however said agents were now a reality for American schools.

“There are always bad agents but they are the exceptions,” said CEO of HTIR Work and Study, David Woods. “But I think Education USA now see these as the rule. The problem is they are throwing out the baby with the bathwater.”

– Correction: when first published this article wrongly stated that it was illegal to pay commission to US-based agents. It is actually illegal to pay commission to place US citizens and permanent residents at US schools. US-based agents may legally place foreign students at US schools and take commission.

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