by Mark Sklarow, Executive Director, IECA
In the last few weeks the Independent Educational Consultants Association‘s total active membership passed the 1,000 mark. Such significant growth in the last several years is more remarkable when two additional data points are added. First is IECA’s tough vetting process: even as the field has quickly grown, IECA requires evidence of experience, knowledge, training, ethics, and much more. Yet, increasingly those who wish to work in this profession seek to submit themselves to this screening. Second is the awareness that nationally, across all fields and professions, from law to medicine, national associations are in dramatic decline. That IECA can buck this trend and show great success is a testament to the professionals who join, our leadership that ensures the Board and committees are focused on member needs, and an outstanding, full-time professional staff that spends every day working to serve the membership and inform the public.
But growing beyond 1,000 members has a very real impact—with great advantages—for every Independent Educational Consultant. Even though it may be more of a psychological threshold, its effects are real.
1. Scores of national companies now seek out IECA both to promote new products and services and, increasingly, to develop new products designed to meet the unique needs of independent educational consultants (IECs). When businesses look at the admissions process as a marketplace, they know the number of school counselors is shrinking, the number of college admission representatives is stable, and the only area of real growth is among IECs. When a field is growing, others want to jump on board.
2. The national, and increasingly international, media take us as an association much more seriously, with reporters contacting us much more frequently. In the past, the media took little notice of IECs except for portraying the profession as elitist and repeating the same few examples of IECs charging huge fees. Today, coverage is more widespread and provides greater balance. Such coverage is shifting: no longer are we included simply when stories are ABOUT independent educational consulting, but rather we are asked for opinions on almost all admissions issues. In short, our growing prominence means we are seen as experts.
3. IECA can do more, and serve our member IECs better, with larger numbers. Our growth to over 1,000 members, combined with membership retention of about 99%, has allowed us to sufficiently staff, and in turn, introduce new initiatives. Last year we introduced a comprehensive IECA Education Center, featuring whitepapers and studies by universities and researchers (another sign of growing recognition). We were able to introduce monthly webinars—at no cost (thanks to sponsors)—with more than 2,500 views of educational sessions already this year. Coming up soon: a Professional Member Retreat, video-based communications with members and the public, an enhanced searchable member database, and more.
4. Increased interest among admission directors, particularly in college advising. Over the past few years we have seen a dramatic uptick in the desire of colleges to include IECA members in their outreach efforts. For some, this means treating IECs as they would school-based counselors. Yet for many others it has gone beyond, as universities establish liaisons to IECA and our members, and have launched efforts unique to IEC outreach. As the number of IECA members has grown, colleges increasingly see IECA events—such as our conferences and NACAC events—as “must attend” events on their calendars. No surprise that new research from Inside Higher Ed showed that colleges now see IECs as among the BEST sources of advice for high school students, above the perceived value of public school counselors.
5. The growth in IECA membership has also led to a surge of interest and support from other significant partners in admission. We recently announced a joint planning with NATSAP to run five “Link ‘n Learn” programs in the coming year. Many NACAC departments consult with us on a number of issues, and vice-versa; we are exploring international opportunities with TABS; offering SSATB training at IECA conferences; and working with strategic partners like UNIGO, College Countdown, CollegeSolved, Hobsons, CEO, Go See Campus, and many more—with even more significant partners under consideration. And beyond admission partners, national groups like Girl Scouts of America are including IECA in their public outreach.
As we pass this 1,000-member threshold, we are keenly aware of our commitment to students and families, and our mission to represent the very best and most ethical independent educational consultants. As we look to the future, it is with the knowledge that we can serve members in new and exciting ways, enhancing opportunities, growing our educational offerings, expanding our media footprint, and assisting members to serve families.