by Mark Sklarow, CEO, Independent Educational Consultants Association
For several years I have helped lead the effort to educate the public, admission professionals, and others about the inherent ethical dilemmas caused by the use of commissioned agents by schools and colleges seeking international applicants.
Yesterday, Inside Higher Ed obtained a draft version of the NACAC Commission’s report and reported those findings today. While the recommendations (which will go to NACAC’s Board and membership for a final determination) are not what I may have wanted, I believe the Commission reached good, principled, understandable recommendations.
First, NACAC will maintain a ban on member institutions’ making incentive-based payments for domestic recruitment.
NACAC has indicated a ban on such payment for international applicants is a “best practice,” meaning such a ban is the preference, but not a mandatory one. For institutions that choose to go against this best practice and employ incentive-based arrangements for international recruitment, they will be required to implement a series of strict requirements for transparency, integrity, and institutional accountability.
“We don’t think this [commission-based recruitment] is a path that institutions should pursue,” Philip Ballinger, the chair of the commission and assistant vice president for enrollment and director of admissions at the University of Washington, said in an interview. “However, if they pursue it, in order to ensure the welfare of students and also the welfare of institutions, they’re going to need to be very intentional on transparency and institutional responsibility, etc., and so we spell that out.”
I concur. We believe that over three-quarters of U.S.-based higher education institutions have looked at the perils of commissioned recruiting and rejected it. Now, those who seek to continue will need to ensure that students and families understand the financial incentives that underlie what had looked on its surface as a counseling relationship. Today, hundreds of independent educational consultants are opening practices around the world, operating free of financial incentives from colleges, serving only the best interest of students. Universities seeking highly qualified applicants today have many alternatives to paying commissions. And these alternative paths are growing, and come with far fewer ethical encumbrances than commission payments.
The final recommendations may not be everything I would have sought, but I endorse them and hope these vigorous standards will ensure that students are protected as they seek to study in the United States.