College recruiting goes overseas

College students

Steve Chiotakis: A college admissions group is accepting feedback through this weekend before it decides whether to ban one popular tactic for recruiting international students. College students who come here from other countries bring in an estimated $20 billion a year to the U.S. economy.

From the Marketplace Education Desk at WYPR in Baltimore, Amy Scott reports.


Amy Scott: In a video on its YouTube channel, the State University of New York at Plattsburgh tells Chinese students how great life is on campus. In the next five years, SUNY wants to almost double the number of international students on its campuses.

Mitch Leventhal is head of global affairs for the SUNY system. To recruit more of these students, he says the university is hiring agents in China, India and other countries. The agents get a 10 percent cut of each student's first year of tuition.

Mitch Leventhal: The international students do pay about two-and-a-half times the tuition of our domestic students, and so, where we have capacity to absorb additional students, it is helpful to get students who can help cover the cost of the education, which generally is underfunded.

Colleges are also looking overseas to make their campuses more diverse. But critics say to earn commissions, agents might push students into schools that aren't a good fit or falsify documents to get them in.

The National Association for College Admission Counseling wants to ban its member colleges from paying commissions. David Hawkins is the group's director of public policy.

David Hawkins: Our problem is not with the use of agents. We see that as a reality that in fact is only likely to be more of a trend. Our primary concern is with the way they're paid.

It's illegal to pay anyone recruiting domestic students a commission. Peggy Blumenthal is with the Institute of International Education. She says the same should be true of international recruiters.

Peggy Blumenthal: If you pay them a regular salary, then they're essentially an extension of your admissions office. But if you pay them per head, there is going to be a tremendous pressure on them to produce bodies, whether or not those bodies are going to thrive at that particular campus.

At SUNY, Mitch Leventhal would rather see commission-based agents regulated. He's set up a group that certifies recruiters. Comments on the proposed ban on commissions are due Monday. The admissions group plans to come out with a final rule in September.

I'm Amy Scott for Marketplace.

About the author

Amy Scott is Marketplace’s education correspondent covering the K-12 and higher education beats, as well as general business and economic stories.

Comments

I agree to American Public Media's Terms and Conditions.
With Generous Support From...