New York is one of the states within the accreditation jurisdiction of the MSCHE
US Middle States delay decision on agent commissions

The Middle States Commission on Higher Education (MSCHE) in the USA has delayed a decision on whether to prohibit the payment of commission to agents, after agreeing to undertake further research and gauge member opinion.

MSCHE - which has accreditation oversight for higher education institutions in the states of New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware and Maryland, as well as the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands - proposed to outlaw commission payments in a draft policy published in April.


However, MSCHE has now confirmed that it has agreed to separate the student recruitment elements of its proposals until further research and member consultation has been conducted.


In a statement published in its monthly newsletter, MSCHE said, "The draft included language intended to restrict per-head inducements on the recruitment of all students. The proposed policy would not prohibit the use of agents in the recruitment of non-U.S. students, but would prohibit the payment of per-head inducements (commissions) in the recruitment of such students.


"Following its initial review of the proposed policy draft, the Commission directed the MCSHE staff to make the draft available to member institutions and to seek their comments. Staff also asked the Commission's attorneys to conduct a legal review of the draft policy."


The statement concluded, "The Commission agreed at its June 2017 meeting to separate Public Information as a stand-alone policy for approval by member institutions, and to conduct further research on Student Recruitment before it undergoes further review by the Commission."


The MCSHE draft proposal in April reopened the US higher education debate on the use of agents and commission.


In 2013, the National Association for College Admission Counsellors (Nacac) relaxed its former opposition by amending its Statement of Principles of Good Practice (SPGP) to permit the use of agents for international student recruitment.


Subsequent research commissioned by Bridge Education Group indicated that usage of agents was gathering momentum among US higher education institutions, with 37 per cent of surveyed schools stating that they were utilising agents, while a further 46 per cent of those that were not using agents at the time of the survey foresaw that they eventually would.


In a statement sent to StudyTravel Magazine at the time of the initial MSCHE proposal, Jean-Marc Alberola, President of Bridge, said, "The best thing we can do is have open and transparent dialogue, identify best practices and educate the marketplace."


He commented that it would be damaging to ban the use of commission payments at such a critical juncture for the USA's international education sector.


"U.S. universities cannot achieve the global presence they require to build their brand and recruit international students without agents.  Often-cited alternatives such as international student fairs, provide, quite frankly, a dismal return on investment," he said.



By Matthew Knott

News Editor