UWEC uses agencies to get internationals
Some UW System universities, including UW-Eau Claire, pay international agencies to help them bring more international students to their campus.
Currently, there are 10 international students at Eau Claire who were recruited through agents and 34 overall since Eau Claire started using agencies in 2009, said Director of the Center for International Education Karl Markgraf.
For years, the UW System did not allow universities to use agencies, Markgraf said. The UW System changed the rules in 2008 and UW campuses are now free to work with agents to recruit more international students.
“If we did not work with these agencies, we would not see these students at this university,” Markgraf said.
There are two fees that the university pays the agencies, and the money comes from the non-resident tuition pool through the university, Markgraf said.
Markgraf said one of the fees that the university pays is between $300 and $400. That is the cost of 10 percent of what the student will pay for the instructional fee for the intensive English program. The other fee is about $1700, which is the cost of 10 percent of the non-resident tuition fee the student will pay. The student still pays Eau Claire the full cost of these fees.
Markgraf said there are a number of reasons to want more international students on campus. The first of those is to increase diversity at Eau Claire.
“Though we send about 25 percent of our students on a study abroad program, that means 75 percent of our students are not having that experience,” he said. “We want them to have a rich, cross-cultural learning experience here in the United States so they become more knowledgeable about other countries, other cultures and other peoples.”
The other part has to do with the revenue, Markgraf said.
“The non-resident tuition revenue is very important to all American universities, not just UW-Eau Claire,” he said. “More and more American universities are seeking to enroll more international students because that does enhance our revenue.”
Eau Claire currently has 254 international students enrolled. The university’s goal, based on a call from Chancellor Brian Levin-Stankevich, is to get to 300 by the fall of 2013.
Another part of the reason Eau Claire wants to increase its number of international students is to make up for state budget cuts, Markgraf said.
“It’s not a coincidence that that call from the chancellor came in conjunction with the shortfall in budget for all of the state universities,” Markgraf said.
Markgraf said he thought the most expedient way to make up for the budget shortfall is to increase international student enrollments.
David Giroux, executive director of communications and external relations for the System, said there is great interest among many of the UW institutions to expand its international reach, and that using outside agencies is one of the least costly ways to do so.
“We want to provide the flexibility to recruit, but also make sure it’s done correctly,” Giroux said.
The System’s policy follows the guidelines of NAFSA: Association of International Educators to make sure System institutions exercise care “when contracting relationships with organizations or agencies which recruit international students on a per capita fee basis to ensure that such arrangements are in the best interests of students.”
Giroux said the policy is in place to make sure the integrity of the System and the degree it provides is protected.
Because it’s banned in the U.S. to use agencies for domestic student recruitment, organizations like American Association of Collegiate Registrars and Admissions Officers have questioned the ethics of using them to recruit international students.
Markgraf said the process is quite ethical if universities work with ethical agencies, and Eau Claire makes sure to do so.
Eau Claire works with an agency called International Consultants for Education and Fairs. The have their own code of ethics and work with agencies all over the world. They organize workshops throughout the world and Markgraf attends them to meet agencies.
ICEF makes sure the agents they work with are reputable, have a high standard of practice and are insured and licensed in their own country, Markgraf said.
The CIE also does background checks on their agents, Markgraf said. They will call universities that the agent has worked with in the past to make sure they do their job properly.
He said it’s the culture in other parts of the world that there are agencies that advise people about studying abroad and to find the best fitting university.
“So if you can imagine that you’re a mom or a dad in Shanghai or Rio de Janeiro, you don’t speak English, you don’t know of any American universities … but you want your son or daughter to have an American education,” Markgraf said. “How do you know how to find a good university for your son or daughter?”
Currently Eau Claire works with two agencies that they found through ICEF, one in China and one in the Middle East. Markgraf said they plan to expand this number.
“We would like to have somebody working for us all over the world so we have good students from all over the world so we can bring a real diverse student body to Eau Claire,” he said.
This March, Markgraf attended a workshop to identify some agents in Russia and central Asia and in September Markgraf said he will be looking for some in South America.