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NACAC softens stance on agents

An American college organisation that had previously advocated a ban on the payment of commission to overseas education agents as “student recruiters” has softened its stance, calling for a delay of up to two years on clarifying its Statement of Principles while a commission looks into the issue.

The board of the National Association for College Admission Counselling (NACAC) – which has more than 11,500 professional members – had proposed earlier in the year that the association’s Statement of Principles of Good Practice (SPGP) be amended to rule that per-head commission payment for students was banned internationally, as well as nationally. This had been due to be voted on in September.

The move made ripples in the US international education industry, which is searching for a policy lead on how to work with education agencies, as many institutions are mindful of the benefits of internationalisation, but unsure about embracing the agent model, particularly against a backdrop of scare stories about cowboy operators in particular countries. Compared with other countries, the number of partnerships between US institutions and education agencies is notoriously low.

NACAC’s President, Jim Miller, underlined in a statement last week that the board “affirms opposition to commission recruiting for international students” but its decision to delay an outright ban on commission-based international agency agreements is seen as a step down. He said, “The discussion of this issue by NACAC members and other stakeholders is healthy, timely and important. We recognise that the issue is complex and not likely to be resolved easily in the short-term.”

Over 300 responses to the proposal to amend the SPGP were received by NACAC, and Miller summarised some of the views raised in these submissions:
– agencies are used in other countries’ recruiting strategies
– agents help students and families, similar to independent counsellors in the US
– agents are currently used by many institutions (questions had been asked during NAFSA this year as to whether such members would be debarred, should they continue to work with agencies against SPGP)
– agents should be held to standards of professional knowledge and quality
– commissoned recruiting leads to problems of misrepresentation, restricts range of options for students

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