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Krista Northup, the State University of New York (SUNY)

The State University of New York is one of America’s largest public university systems catering to 465,000 students. We catch up with Krista Northup, Director of International Recruitment and Agency Operations, to discuss marketing, agents and campus diversity.

The PIE: Who makes up the SUNY network and how many international students do you have?

"Rank is one factor to consider, but the experiences you get on a campus are just as important"

KN: The State University of New York (SUNY) is a system of 64 campuses of different types and sizes, large and small. They include university centres which are research focused, community colleges, technology colleges and four-year comprehensive universities. We have about 23,000 international students.

The PIE: How do you recruit SUNY’s international students?

KN: Traditionally each campus has been responsible for their own recruiting and that’s still true to a certain extent. But a couple of years ago, under the leadership of Dr Mitch Leventhal, we put in place a system-wide approach and established the Office of International Recruitment.

“When agents are viewed as partners, we believe they can add a lot of value to a recruitment strategy”

We’re trying to get out there and raise the brand of SUNY in hopes that students will choose one of our campuses when they apply to schools in the US. We complement the existing strategies of our member schools; we don’t want to duplicate what they are doing nor do we think we have a better approach. It’s more about raising the SUNY brand, especially for those campuses that don’t have as much brand recognition in the market.

The PIE: Is it working out well?

KN: It’s going very well. One of the things we are doing, and this is being organised centrally, is working with agents. So that’s a big part of the strategy. Not all our members have traditionally worked with agents. But we have now structured things so that all the agent contracts come through the central office, and this allows more of our campuses (the ones who want to) to make use of agents.

The PIE: The National Association for College Admission Counselling (NACAC) is currently ruling on whether its members, which include most US universities, can use agents. Why do you advocate using them?

KN: When agents are viewed as partners, we believe they can add a lot of value to a recruitment strategy. We have decided, in order to protect ourselves and ensure high standards, to take a slightly different approach when selecting our agents. We only work with American International Recruitment Council (AIRC)-certified agents. AIRC is run by American universities and certifies recruiting agents to ensure they behave appropriately when conducting their business.

A lot of agents do follow these standards anyway, but certification is an easy way of weeding out the good from the bad operators.

“They also give us insights into the nuances and conditions of a market”

The PIE: What do you see as the benefits?

KN: Agents extend our ability to connect in markets so they become an extension of our marketing efforts. They also give us insights into the nuances and conditions of a market. For instance, we recently attended our first fair in Israel; it was my first time to the market and I don’t know a lot about the education system. Having an agent on the ground means there is somebody to assist in planning and promotion.

In addition, they can help identify popular majors and assist representatives in understanding the education system so that we can be better prepared when talking to students. Working together is fundamental to success. The agents are trained by us, they know what qualifications we need, they help students, and we both uphold our standards.

The PIE: Why is there such an objection in the US do you think?[More>>]

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