The CP Blog


College Admission: International Student Recruiting

“It’s destructive of the very function of admissions. The credibility of American higher education is at risk if we begin to parcel out pieces of it like car sales.” OMG! Can it be? This is an outrage! Is car buying really going the way of college admissions? That would be a disaster. I mean when I bought our new Lexus IS250 (really cool car) I went to the dealer, drove that baby around the block, got a feel for how it handled and made me feel about myself. Then we sat down and the salesman said, “I’ll sell you this purty li’l thang for a dozen Krispy-Kremes,” And I said, “I drove her; I know what I’ll be gettin’. I’ll give you eight Krispy-Kremes and a tall cup ‘o Joe.” He said, “Done deal.” He threw in a three year guarantee against any defective parts and I drove her off the lot. If only college admissions were that straight forward, transparent, and offered a quality guarantee.

But according to Barmak Nassirian, an associate executive director of the American Association of Collegiate Registrars and Admissions Officers, college admissions is in danger of being fair. Well, not exactly. He’s upset that some colleges are paying recruiters in foreign countries to entice qualified students to enroll in their universities. I mean, let’s face it, that’s paying people to put fannies in the seats. You might even call it marketing. Nobody’s forcing international kids to sign on the dotted line, there’s no accusation of bribery (unlike NCAA college athletics), just paid representatives out in Asia, and India and Eastern Europe, (did I mention Asia and India?) and other exotic destinations spreading the gospel about their institutions. If a kid signs up the rep gets a bonus.

Now every college worth its pound of flesh has an enrollment management and marketing VP. What do these guys with the fancy title do? Well, they crunch a lot of numbers having to do with teenagers, target them with seductive marketing campaigns, and get paid a lot more than those dastardly international recruiters to do what? Put fannies in the seats, that’s what. Why then is Mr. Nassarian so upset about a few rogue agents in Shanghai or Mumbai? Because international admissions is really big business and colleges claim they want a level playing field. Of course, a “level playing field” in college admissions is an oxymoron.

With all the caterwaul and hand wringing about the decline in American education guess what American industry is rated number one in the world. Give up? American higher education. Our colleges and universities win the international race by a country mile. Germany isn’t even close; England retains a little luster; and those menacing Chinese who are threatening our leadership in every other category aren’t even a blip on the radar. According to the Chronicle of Higher Education, “the Academic Ranking of World Universities, published annually by China’s Shanghai Jiao Tong University, American institutions continue to dominate the top echelons of the influential list: 54 percent of the top 100 universities are in the United States, according to an analysis, with Harvard retaining the top spot, followed by Stanford and the University of California at Berkeley. The only three non-American universities in the top 20 are the University of Cambridge, at number four, the University of Oxford, at number 10, and Tokyo University, in the 19th spot.” Furthermore, as Fareed Zakaria points out in his book The Post American World, “In India, universities graduate between 35 and 50 Ph.D’s in computer science each year; in America, the figure is 1,000.”

Last year over 670,000 international students came to study in the U.S. The University of Southern California (USC) had the highest number of foreign students enrolled with 7,500, NYU was second, and Columbia University was third. Foreign families love our colleges and our colleges love them. International student recruitment is big business because it has a really big bottom line. The kids aren’t smarter or better prepared. Diversity? Really? Check the statistics on diversity among America’s top 100 colleges. When you separate athletes the numbers are shameful. Foreign students pay full tuition, do not qualify for federal financial aid, and must sign an affidavit proving they have at least one year of tuition and living expenses already in a bank account – and they must prove it every year. We’re talking 50 grand or more in the bank ready to turn over to a college bursar. International students aren’t being aggressively recruited because of their talent and brains. They are deficit reducers. And as more colleges deal with historic deficits, competition for these full pay dreamers will heat up. Maybe Mr. Nissarian would feel better shilling at a car lot.