World Education Services Releases New Research into International Students' Experiences Working with Education Agents

NEW YORK, NY—(Marketwired – Jun 6, 2017)  New research from World Education Service (WES) indicates that two thirds of U.S.-bound international students who work with education agents use independent rather than institution-sponsored agents. The remaining third—those who work with sponsored agents—often pay agent fees of more than USD $1,000 on top of commissions paid by institutions. This type of double payment is at the heart of the ongoing debate about practices among international education agents that many in U.S. higher education find problematic.

A report based on the research, Decoding International Students’ Experiences With Education Agents: Insights for U.S. Institutions, summarizes the results of a March 2017 survey of 5,880 current or prospective international students who are either enrolled in or planning to enroll in U.S. colleges and universities. Respondents came from five regions of the globe and more than 50 countries.

The report adds new insights to this ongoing agent debate, focusing the conversation directly on student experience, and highlighting voices from parts of the world where the use of education agents is seldom researched or written about. Researchers found that about 23 percent used agents during the application process. Of those:

  • Eighty-three percent were satisfied with the services offered and said that agents met their expectations. More than 75 percent agreed that agents provided useful information and valuable suggestions; more than 70 percent indicated that the expenses were reasonable.
  • Two thirds used independent education agents rather than institution-sponsored agents.
  • Two thirds of students who use institution-sponsored agents paid them. One in five paid them more than USD $1,000.
  • Top concerns among students who worked with sponsored-agents revolved around conflicts of interest. Top concerns among those who worked with independent agents focused on quality control.

The use of education agents to recruit international students is a new and still controversial practice among U.S. institutions. In 2013, the National Association for College Admission Counseling (NACAC) sanctioned the use of commissioned international recruitment agents. By 2016, almost half of U.S. institutions reported that they directly or indirectly used international agents. This spring, the Middle States Commission on Higher Education (MSCHE) opened the issue again with a proposed prohibition on incentive-based international recruitment.

“A lot of times, what is missing from the agent debate is the perspective of students from non-Asian countries,” said Megha Roy, the report’s author and a senior research associate at WES. “We wanted to get a sense of what students around the globe are experiencing in order to help inform conversations about the ethics of recruitment. We also wanted to get a sense of how non-commissioned agents end up influencing student decisions and enrollments.”

“This is a new way of working for U.S. institutions. They need to be very savvy about the student experience of working with agents,” said Mariam Assefa, Executive Director of WES. “How do students in Europe use agents versus students in Africa or Latin America? Do they use commissioned agents or do they hire their own? How satisfied are students with their services? We must understand how today’s international students choose where to study and how they make their choices.”

The full report is available on World Education News & Reviews. To read it, visit

About WES
World Education Services (WES) is a non-profit organization, founded in 1974 and dedicated to helping individuals achieve their higher education and professional goals. WES evaluates and advocates for the recognition of international education qualifications in the U.S. and Canada. WES delivers credential evaluations recognized by 2,500 academic, business, and governmental institutions to more than one million people worldwide.

About WES Research
WES Research provides strategic reports and articles that offer research-based insights and recommendations on how higher education institutions can:

  • Evaluate and improve their international enrollment management
  • Elevate return on recruitment investments
  • Enhance international student experiences

About WENR
First published in 1987, World Education News & Reviews (WENR) is an authoritative news and information source for professionals in international education. Published by World Education Services, WENR keeps readers abreast of education developments around the world, and includes practical “how-to” articles on credential evaluation, international admissions, and recruiting.