Holding the Line on Agents

The National Association for College Admission Counseling has long had a policy barring commission payments to anyone for recruiting or enrolling students. The policy is consistent with U.S. law with regard to domestic students — a statute that was developed in part out of concerns over admissions practices at some for-profit institutions.

The U.S. law doesn’t apply to the recruitment of foreign students — and a growing number of colleges have employed agents, who are paid in part on commission, to recruit abroad. Advocates for the use of agents have been encouraging NACAC to consider differentiating between the recruitment of foreign and domestic students, and permitting commissions for recruiting the former.

But NACAC appears headed in the opposite direction. The association’s board has released a draft policy revision that clarifies the issue only by being more explicit that the ban on commissions applies whether the recruited students are in the U.S. or abroad.

"NACAC’s core principles are intended to serve the student interest in the transition from secondary to postsecondary education. Members will readily acknowledge that the number of students enrolled in a given academic year is a matter of great importance to all institutions of higher education. However, reducing the basis for compensation to the number of students enrolled in any circumstance introduces an incentive for recruiters to ignore the student interest in the transition to postsecondary education, and invites complications involving misrepresentation, conflict of interest, and fraud at the expense of the student," says the explanation in the draft policy.

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