Illegal in U.S., Paid Agents Overseas Help American Colleges Recruit Students

Tuesday, February 7, 2012
Green River Community College, 45 minutes south of Seattle, has no special overseas cachet, no global name recognition — but it has enrolled 1,400 international students this year, most of them recruited by overseas agents who get 15 percent of the $9,732 first-year tuition. “It would be impossible for us to attract students by advertising or going to recruitment fairs, since the whole community college concept of coming for two years and then transferring to a four-year university is unknown in most countries,” said Ross Jennings, vice president for international programs at the college in Auburn, Wash. “We need agents who know us and understand what we do.” In the United States, it is illegal to pay recruiters for each student they bring in — a practice outlawed 20 years ago because of widespread abuse by agents who signed up anyone they could, regardless of academic potential. But the use of commissioned agents to recruit international students remains a highly divisive, hotly debated issue in higher education circles.

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