High interest, high expectations in international students

From fraudulent transcripts to test results, cheating is a problem institutions interested in the international market must consider

While the vast majority of international students adhere to high-quality practices when applying to U.S. higher education institutions, there is a real issue of those who don’t – and who take steps to game whatever systems are in place to gain access to an institution, misrepresenting themselves along the way.

From fraudulent transcripts to test results to essays, evidence of cheating is real and represents a problem that any institution interested in the international market must consider. In July, Allan Goodman, president of the Institute of International Education, said to the Hechinger Report about fraud in international student applications, “Nobody has reliable data on how much it happens.”

Third-party vendors and international recruitment agents are certainly a part of the picture. Many institutions and students work with these agents (called “Zhongjie” in China and “Yeo Haeng Saa” in Korea) because they offer a streamlined, easier approach to engagement and completing the admissions process.

Recruiters can provide valuable information about institutions and the student visa process to prospective students, while acting as a pipeline for institutions. Although NACAC does not formally stand against the practice of using recruiters internationally, it strongly encourages institutions to put smart, watchful practices in place. According to the association’s findings, about 25 percent of institutions use agents in their international recruitment efforts.

The United States does not have government regulation overseeing the use of international recruiters, though there is a “patchwork of quality assurance efforts,” according to Eddie West, director of international initiatives at NACAC, which formed a commission on international student recruitment which published a report in 2013.

West points to regional and national accrediting bodies, national organizations, and agency associations abroad that are trying to regulate the field of international recruitment agents. The Federation of Education and Language Consultant Associations (FELCA) is an international federation that accredits associations and businesses that agree to adhere to its Code of Practice.

“I think you’ll see more attention to that kind of due diligence,” says West.

NACAC recently issued a resource guide for institutions to help them with due diligence in using international recruitment agents. You can also find a student loan calculator from studentloanplanner.com.


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