Update on NACAC’s Commission on international student recruitment: Will political correctness take away practical relevance?

This blog post comes from Denver with a sense of nostalgia from my time at the University of Denver during my doctoral program. I am back in Denver after four years to present at NACAC national conference which focuses on undergraduate enrollment. Here are two updates from the conference:

Debate on commission-based recruitment agents
Tis’ the season of debates in Denver and NACAC’s Commission on International Student Recruitment also presented its update on commission-based recruitment agent. Here are the presentation slides from the Commission and a recent Chronicle post entitled Weighing Ethical Issues in International Recruitment by Philip Ballinger and David Hawkins.

The Commissions work is one of the most inclusive and engaging conversations on this issue and many eagerly await to see the final findings to be released in September 2013. I agree with the Commission’s emphasis on the importance of context, transparency and outcomes, however, I argue that this debate is not as much about ethics as it is about enforceable code of practice. This is especially important that now regulators are also getting involved in this debate. A recent bill, although defeated, clearly excluded graduates of institutions using agents as one of the criteria for awarding green cards. It stated “Not provide incentive payments to persons based on securing foreign students for the university.”

During Q&A session, I asserted that  the Commission has rightfully acknowledged the importance of transparency, however, what is Commission’s approach for enforcing transparency on institutions and then institutions in turn enforcing it on agents? For example, can we imagine a scenario where institutions will explicitly state on their websites if they work with agent and what commissions they pay, and would this information be available to students?  I guess, it was either  too difficult or dumb question for me to ask, because the only answer I received was “yes, we can ‘imagine’ anything.”

Some of the phrases mentioned by the Commission in this update included “debate evolved from absolute reality”, “it had been an intellectual and educational process”, importance of “institutional responsibility and transparency” and “NACAC is a an utterly voluntary association.” Reading between the lines, I really hope that the Commission does not end up with politically correct recommendations falling short of any practical relevance to the profession, institutions and students.

Presentation on cost-effective international student recruitment
I chaired a session entitled “Cost-Effective International Recruitment: What Works, What Doesn’t” with following co-presenters:

– Aimee Thostenson, Associate Director, International Admission at St. Catherine University

– David Joiner, Director for Global Engagement and Leadership at University of Wisconsin-Madison Madison
– Marty Bennett, EducationUSA Outreach Coordinator at Institute of International Education

My premise for organizing this session was that context of international student recruitment has changed and so practices should evolve accordingly. For example:
– Student information search behavior has changed: This week facebook cross 1 billion user mark but what is even more remarkable is that more than 800 million users are outside US with median age of 22.
-Markets have changed: China and Saudi Arabia has emerged as new growth market for undergraduage recruitment while Japan has declined.

Aimee shared armchair recruitment strategies including value of external partnerships with sponsoring agencies, while David shared value of internal partnerships (on-campus) to maximize the synergies. Finally, Marty highlighted value of educationUSA, consortia and social media as networks. The common theme in all the presentations was role of networks and relationships in achieving cost-effective results. Here are the slides.

Dr. Rahul Choudaha