EducationUSA advisors should not be cavorting with agents!



During a session at the recent NAFSA conference in Houston, Mitch Leventhal asserted that the State Dept. has superseded the authority of AIRC by prohibiting overseas advisors from “forming partnerships or working with recruitment agents”. Hunh? Mitch Leventhal is the Vice Chancellor for Global Affairs for the SUNY system and one of the founders of the American International Recruitment Council (AIRC). AIRC is a membership association that Mr. Leventhal helped to create that lobbies aggressively for professional approval and recognition of the use of recruitment agents. Mr. Leventhal is to be found at most international forums arguing the virtues of working with paid agents, or at least those certified by AIRC.

But wait, we’re confused. What does the State Dept. have to do with AIRC or AIRC with the State Dept.? Why would either have authority over the other? Or anything to say about the policies of the other body? And who granted AIRC the regulatory authority Mr. Leventhal is claiming?

EducationUSA advisors have an extremely important role to play representing US education in more than 100 countries. Their mission (as presented on their website) is described below:

EducationUSA centers actively promote U.S. higher education around the world by offering accurate, unbiased, comprehensive, objective and timely information about educational institutions in the United States and guidance to qualified individuals on how best to access those opportunities. Millions of prospective students learn about U.S. study opportunities through EducationUSA centers each year. Centers are staffed by professional advisers, many of whom have first-hand experience having studied in the United States themselves, adhere to ethical standards, and/or have received State Department-approved training about U.S. higher education and the advising process. EducationUSA centers also support U.S. study abroad by advising U.S. colleges and universities about options for developing study programs in other countries.

EducationUSA advisors cannot risk being tainted as representatives of any particular interest(s). Their integrity rests on their reputation for being an accurate, impartial, objective source of information about access to US higher education. The idea that in some way they should be collaborating with, endorsing, or recommending agents is preposterous. There is simply no logical connection here — their role in no way overlaps with the mission of AIRC or their members except that AIRC would like to extend their reach by exploiting these outposts. This is like suggesting that car manufacturers are entitled to a relationship with fast-food providers that have drive-up windows. Yes, there is a vague connection, but it’s a stretch.

AIRC is a private and independent organization established to insure some level of professional conduct by agents and the universities that work with them. What does this have to do with the work of EducationUSA? We understand why AIRC is concerned with the position NACAC is pondering on the use of agents (The National Association of College Admissions Counselors has been very reluctant to bestow the blessing that AIRC demands from them.). But the State Department and EducationUSA are an entirely different ballpark.

AIRC is free to serve its members and to pursue their goal of encouraging the use of paid agents for recruitment, of course. But to expect any kind of endorsement from the US State Department? Simply put, the State Dept. does not have any presence within AIRC nor any influence over their activities, so why should AIRC have any involvement with State Dept. activities or policy?\\

We recognize that many universities choose to work with agents (as is their prerogative) but we continue to have serious concerns. We simply do not believe that this approach to the selection of universities abroad is in the best interest of prospective students but rather a shortcut for institutions to recruit without making a commitment to true internationalization. By this we mean, a commitment to acquiring an understanding of different cultural markets, learning about different education systems and how they compare to the US system, acquiring the knowledge needed to assure international students a rewarding experience at the host institution, etc. We believe that the use of agents displaces organizational learning to the detriment of both the institution and the student.

AIRC’s mission is to insure professional and ethical practices when universities pay agents to recruit foreign students. So be it. By why they should expect the rest of the world to endorse their efforts is beyond us.