A new era for agents?
A quarter of colleges say they are “actively considering” paid overseas recruiters
New Data on Agents
More than a third of American colleges use commission-based agents to recruit students internationally, according to survey results from the National Association for College Admission Counseling. Thirty-six percent of respondents to NACAC’s 2017-18 admission trend survey paid outside recruiters, up from 30 percent in 2010.
For my money, however, the most interesting finding is that another 27 percent of colleges are actively considering whether to use agents. As the data shows, the share of colleges paying recruiters has increased in recent years but modestly so. The landscape, however, has shifted over that period. Notably, NACAC itself moved from considering an outright ban on agents to grudging acceptance of the practice.
Many observers – including me – thought NACAC’s more-open stance toward agents would free up fence-sitters. The American International Recruitment Council, or AIRC, has done much to standardize the vetting of agencies, and overseas recruiters have become a visible presence at international conferences like NAFSA. The assumption was that once NACAC, as the professional association for the admissions sector, gave its OK to the use of agents, many institutions would dive in.
But as it stands, American colleges have remained hesitant to adopt such strategies as compared to other major destination countries like Australia, where nearly two-thirds of foreign students come via agencies.
Why? I do think there is a not-insubstantial “never-agents” group, people who remain ethically opposed to the idea of paying commissions. But others without the same philosophical objections simply may not have seen the need. As I’ve been repeatedly told over the years, using agents isn’t a shortcut and to do it well takes work. When international enrollments were increasing 7 percent, 8 percent, 10 percent a year, when some colleges were facing political pressure not to enroll too many foreign students, institutions might not have felt real urgency to change their approach.
Are they feeling more of an imperative now? The fact that a large chunk of colleges are giving serious thought to agents leads me to wonder whether slowing international enrollments will be the catalyst that shifts recruitment practices – whether that’s using agents or other innovations. What do you think? Message me at email@example.com. I’ll include interesting perspectives on the agent debate in next week’s newsletter.
OPT Fight Continues
The legal squabble over the future of OPT will go another round. A U.S. district court judge allowed a group of American tech workers to continue with their decade-old lawsuit challenging optional practical training, the federal program that allows recent international graduates to remain in the country and work. The judge ruled that the case could go forward, saying an Obama administration decision to amend OPT to permit graduates in high-demand STEM fields to stay longer in the U.S. reset the clock on a legal challenge.
The workers, who believe that international graduates are taking American jobs, argue that the government never had the authority create OPT in the first place. The program was started in 1992 not by Congress but through administrative action, by a predecessor agency to the Department of Homeland Security.
There was one bright spot for supporters of OPT in the judge’s decision. He allowed the U.S. Chamber of Commerce to join the case as an “intervenor” to argue for the interests of employers, who want the program to continue.
OPT is hugely popular with students, many of whom see gaining American work experience as a critical part of earning a degree. Over the past decade, participation in the program has grown nearly 400 percent, according to the Institute of International Education. Today, nearly one in five student-visa holders is actually working, not studying. In addition to legal challenges, OPT has faced administrative delays, with slow processing times imperiling graduates’ ability to take jobs and internships.
Homeland Security officials sent out an Independence Day-eve news release warning colleges not to approve students’ use of curricular practical training as a substitute for OPT. Unlike OPT, which is meant to be supplemental training, CPT is an internship, practicum, or work experience that is integral or directly related to an established curriculum. (Interestingly, the release defines integral as a required part of a degree program, which isn’t spelled out in the regs.) “We know schools are trying to find solutions to recent processing delays in OPT authorization requests, and SEVP has noticed an uptick in schools using CPT as an alternative,” the statement from the Student and Exchange Visitor Program said. The message: Don’t.
Around the Globe
North Korean officials say that an Australian graduate student expelled from the country last week was a spy who had been “caught red-handed.”
A University of California at Davis professor faces a trial in Turkey for signing a petition protesting the Turkish military’s treatment of Kurdish residents.
Meanwhile, Turkey’s president Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has called for the establishment of all-female universities.
Could a long-stalled bill to allow foreign universities to operate in India be revived?
National expenditures on research remain high, but per-researcher output in the United States has fallen below the average for the G20, the world’s leading industrialized countries, according to a new scorecard from the Web of Science.
A Chinese company will no longer buy Westminster Choir College, a renowed music school in New Jersey.
A hot take on international students so hot it might be incendiary.
“There was nothing I could do but accept reality.” When an Emory professor’s lab was shut down over alleged foreign ties, post-docs and researchers lost their jobs and some had to return to China.
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Read this! In the Sunday Times Magazine, Michael Sokolove takes a look at the Saudi money in American higher education. While this pretty well-trod ground, Sokolove asks a provocative question: If wealthy universities like MIT don’t really need Saudi money, then why do they take it?
And read this! Jackie Kennedy fell in love with Paris during her junior year abroad. This piece is mostly travelogue, but it touches on a truism: In studying abroad, she didn’t just discover another culture, she discovered herself.
’Til next week – Karin
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