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US: Acceptance of agents clearing way for pathway providers

Since the National Association of College Admission Counselling (NACAC) consented to partnerships with commissioned education consultants last year, the use of agents among higher education institutions in the US is growing and the agent debate is shifting from”should we do it?” to “how do we do it?”.

Education counselling agencies are gaining the trust of US universities. Pictured, a branch of New Horizon Vision Overseas, China

The number of AIRC certified agents has increased from 56 last year to 72

The new agent friendly environment was tangible at the AIRC conference in Miami this month, where universities were exploring how to be more strategic in filling funding gaps.

The ambitious arena is creating a fertile ground for an imminent boom in pathway providers working in tandem with universities to promote studying in the US to an international audience.

“We don’t have the collaboration [with government] that the UK and Australia have because in the US we’re more independent and local”

“After the NACAC decision, there was a sigh of relief in the field that we can do this but we know we have to do it right,” commented John Dupree, executive director of AIRC, at the organisation’s sixth annual conference in Miami last week.

He argued that US institutions are ahead of the curve even though their Australian and British counterparts have been using education agents for student recruitment for almost four decades.

“We have the only independently verified certification process [for agencies – via AIRC],” he said. “We don’t have the collaboration [with government] that the UK and Australia have because in the US we’re more independent and local.”

However, despite the general relaxation around using agents, Dupree said challenges still exist in international recruitment including establishing student services to handle the needs of international students and student retention.

Many of the almost 300 delegates commented that university leadership continues to be a roadblock either by not supporting the use of counselling agencies or by having unrealistically high recruitment expectations for international.

But it was largely agreed that a more welcoming attitude toward agencies has also opened the doors for more private pathway providers. “The agency discussion evolution has helped the pathway process seem more viable,” commented Dupree.

AIRC convened in Miami this month

AIRC convened in Miami this month

Contributing to the discussions of myths and realities around pathway providers, Larry Green, Managing Director for North American Higher Education at Study Group and Pat van Rooyen, General Manager of Navitas USA, agreed that institutions must be prepared to commit to a partnership.

“It is for-profit, we’re not in the business of building an operation that doesn’t make money for us or the university,” commented Rooyen.

“We’re looking for someone who’s committed to academic outcomes and has the money to invest.”

Founded in 2008 to promote transparency and best practice in the US’s international student recruitment sector, AIRC has seen membership grow to 259 institutions.

The number of agents who have undergone the organisation’s rigorous certification scheme has increased from 56 last year to 72.

“Every school can’t afford to go out around the world, but if you can have good partners in those places for you, that’s a plus”

In the highly competitive US market, Dupree added that smaller institutions especially are set to benefit from the use of education agents.

Andre Cordon, Director of International Admission and Enrollment Management at Pace University in New York City, agreed saying the use of education agents helps institutions to recruit more strategically.

“Every school can’t afford to go out around the world, but if you can have good partners that you train and give the right tools that can be in those places for you, representing you, that’s a plus,” he said.

“Because of the changing demographics in the states, the typical group of 18-20 year olds is diminishing so what do you do to fill those seats?

“A lot of schools, like us, develop online completion programmes, scholarships for veterans, adult education programmes, out of state and international recruitment. All those things come together to try to make up for the decline.”

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