Third-party Pathway Providers for International Recruitment: Outcomes and Experiences

Inside Higher Ed ran a series on the evolution of third-party pathway programs for international student recruitment in the US. This comprehensive and incisive reporting by Elizabeth Redden looks into multiple dimensions related to this complex and evolving topic. It relates to the NAFSA commissioned research report I led on the landscape third-party pathway partnerships and the reasons reported by international education professionals for considering to partner or not.

The article highlights that “Colleges have turned to the third-party pathway model for one main reason: to grow the population of full-pay international students, and in turn the revenue they bring. ”

This aligns with the findings of the report. Given below are the topic five reasons for partnering with third-party pathway provider as reported by 347 professionals from 261 institutions who attended NAFSA conferences are:

  • To access recruitment network of pathway provider
  • To expand enrollment of international students at bachelor’s level
  • To improve yield of international enrollment
  • To make up for lack of in-house expertise
  • To enhance diversity of international enrollment

Top five reasons for not partnering are:

  • Fear of loss of academic standards
  • Concern for loss of control of international admissions process
  • University-governed intensive English program is working well
  • Terms of contract (i.e., length and cost)
  • Prefer to develop in-house expertise

One specific aspect IHE series takes a deeper dive into is the intricate relationship between agents, pathway providers and institutions. “The growth of third-party pathway providers — and of the private capital behind many of them — has helped to create a more competitive and commercialized recruiting landscape.”

I am quoted in the article about the institutional perspective of seeing value in a pathway provider who can bring capital and expertise to quickly ramp-up the enrollment. At the same time, changes in the source markets, competition and political climate are affecting the pathway programs themselves to create a scenario of “the great unknowns” to threaten the sustainability of the partnership over a long-term.

IHE Series on Pathway Programs

– Dr. Rahul Choudaha