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NACAC says “yes” to agent use

After more than two years of debate, the National Association of College Admission Counselling (NACAC) has made a groundbreaking decision to allow its 13,000 members to use commission-based education agents to recruit international students.

The vote was aptly taken at the organisation's first ever conference held outside of the US in 69 years

At the organisation’s conference in Toronto this weekend, the governing assembly voted 152-47 to change NACAC’s Statement of Principles of Good Practice to include the statement: “If members choose to use incentive-based agents when working with international students outside the U.S., they will ensure accountability, transparency, and integrity.”

The decision follows a recommendation made earlier this year by the Commission on International Student Recruitment to allow what has widely been viewed as a controversial practice among NACAC’s mostly US-based high school, college and university counsellors.

A best practices document will be produced in order to provide guidance to members

Eddie West, Director of International Initiatives at NACAC said the vote’s outcome wasn’t a surprise. “We were heading in that direction,” he told The PIE News.

“It was a deliberate and thoughtful outcome that also represents the trust that the membership has in the processes that were in place to make good decisions about it.”

The rules will take effect immediately but there will be a year moratorium on the regulation to look at the language, implications and interpretations in order to clarify any unanswered questions about the practice.

In that process, a best practices document will be produced in order to provide guidance to members. “It aims to give some help in understanding how to do this type of work if they choose to so that they’re not going blind into that arena,” said West.

Despite the use of agents being wide-spread in the competing markets including the UK, Canada and Australia, until now the practice has divided educators in the US.

The US Department of State’s education promotion branch, EducationUSA, which has advising centres in 170 countries, refuses to work with education agents or attend agent-backed fairs on the grounds that it is ethically opposed to paying agents commission.

Meanwhile, the American International Recruitment Council (AIRC), was founded in 2008 to bring together US higher education institutions and education agents to establish quality standards for international recruitment. In a statement it said that it “commends” NACAC’s decision.

The change in regulation will not affect schools that have already been using agents and isn’t likely to stir immediate movement among members who haven’t says West.

“I would be surprised to see this vote all of the sudden trigger some dramatic increase in agent based recruitment”

“I would be surprised to see this vote all of the sudden trigger some dramatic increase in agent based recruitment. Rather I think people are going to take a cautious and deliberate approach to the question.

Hopefully members will look to other resources that are out there in terms of best practices and also wait for this best practices document that we’ll have at the ready for our assembly to look at a year from now,” he added.

The vote was aptly taken at the organisation’s first ever conference held outside of the US in 69 years. It was attended by some 4,800 members.

“In a way it worked out nicely that we could have the conference in Toronto at this time when we’re now starting to make efforts to be more international and intentional in what we do in terms of international education,” said West.

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