By Matthew Knott, News Editor of Study Travel Magazine

This week’s big story has to be the news that the National Association for College Admission Counselling (Nacac) in the US has finally officially endorsed the use of commission payments to agents for the recruitment of international students.

Aversion to commission payments is at the very core of Nacac’s identity, with the association being established in the early 20th century in order to regulate and professionalise domestic recruitment, where some unscrupulous practices had occurred. The use of payments to third parties for domestic recruitment remains staunchly banned to this day.

However, Nacac has historically projected its anxieties over commission onto the sphere of international recruitment. It was a position that became untenable, flying in the face of some of the stringent standards that national and international agency associations adhere to, ever-expanding overseas recruitment drives by US-based institutions and already widespread agency usage by Nacac members.

Earlier this year, following a two-year moratorium, Nacac’s Commission on International Student Recruitment recommended a change to the Statement of Principles of Good Practice from “may not” to “should not” use incentive-based agents.

Actually, the final result was a more welcoming wording, with the “should not” value judgement replaced by a sentence stating that institutions that do use commission-based recruitment will “ensure accountability, transparency and integrity”. 

It may be that some Nacac members will now be seeking agencies overseas. It is probably more likely that many will now feel liberated in revealing the full extent to which they already use agents. Either way, this has to be seen as a positive step forward for the industry.

There was a sting in the tail though, an anomaly highlighted by Nacac’s non-US based members: the newly worded statement now legislates for a US university to use an agent to recruit overseas, but a non-US Nacac member university may not use an agent to recruit students in the US.

Although a proposal to change “US” to “domestic market” was not adopted, Nacac wisely agreed to give further consideration to this oversight.

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