The Wonderful (and Complex!) World of Sponsored Program Administration

January 12, 2012 By: Craig E. Hastings

wRAP-Up Volume 9, Issue 1 - March 2012

The administration of sponsored student programs consists of a complex formula that typically involves partners from several organizations working together. Generally speaking the partnership involves some combination of individuals from up to three institutions: a sponsor, a programming organization, and a training provider.

The sponsor might be the U.S. government such as the Department of State's Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs; a foreign government such as Brazil, Turkey, or Saudi Arabia; an international organization (for example, the World Bank or the Organization of American States); a private company in or outside the United States; or a multinational corporation. Typically, the sponsor provides the primary funding for the sponsored student's program although many also look for some form of cost sharing from the host institution.

Some sponsors contract with one or more programming organizations (which may also be referred to as program, sponsoring, or cooperating "agencies") to administer the program or parts of the program on their behalf. You probably already work with several programming organizations (such as American Councils, AMIDEAST, CBIE, CIES, IIE, IREX, LASPAU, or World Learning) who administer the programs that bring students to your campus. Most programming organizations administer the programs of several different sponsors. These programming organizations may perform any number of services on behalf of the sponsor, including design of the program; promotion, recruitment, and selection of the participants; placement of the sponsored students in English-language training programs and degree programs; issuing DS-2019 forms for the students; issuing payments to both the students and the host institutions; monitoring students during their program; and many other services.

The key organization in the Sponsored Program Administration (or SPA) equation is the training provider, which in many instances is an Intensive English Program and/or a host college or university. Some universities or consortia of universities even function as both a programming organization and training provider by contracting directly with the sponsor.

This complex equation requires a lot of good communication and collaboration between the various partners. The Sponsored Program Administration network, one of six networks in the RAP knowledge community hosted on the NAFSA Web site, aims to support the work of all of these partners by sharing information and best practices and providing a discussion forum through which sponsors, programming organizations, and host institutions can ask questions and share information.

If you are not already subscribed to the SPA discussion forum, subscribing is easy and takes less than five minutes! You are not required to be a NAFSA member to subscribe, but you do need to create a user account to join any of the RAP networks.

How Do I Subscribe?

  • Step 1: Log in to the NAFSA site.
  • Step 2: Visit the Recruitment, Admissions, and Preparation Knowledge Community page and click on the SPA network.
  • Step 3: Click the Subscribe link at the right, and choose your Profile and Subscription Preferences and how often you want to receive announcements and discussion forum postings via E-mail.
  • Step 4: Click the "Save" button at the bottom of the page.

On the Sponsored Program Administration network page you will find a link to several resources, including a list (by no means comprehensive!) of some of the sponsors, programming organizations, and host institutions that are active in the SPA network

To get a sense of other resources that would be helpful to subscribers, the SPA network has put together a questionnaire to collect information on sponsored student programs. If you have not already completed the questionnaire and would like to, you can find it at

An excellent opportunity to meet directly with some of these sponsors and programming organizations is during the Sponsored Program Administration Poster Fair at the NAFSA Annual Conference. The SPA Poster Fair will be offered for the fifth year in a row at the 2012 conference in Houston, and many programming organizations and sponsors will present information on how colleges and universities can host additional sponsored students from their programs.

What Are the Benefits of Hosting Sponsored Students?

There are many benefits to hosting sponsored students:

  • They can help diversify and internationalize your campus in general or a specific degree program or department.
  • They can aid your institution in establishing partnerships with foreign institutions or governments.
  • Working with programming organizations and sponsors can lead to additional projects or programs with the sponsor.
  • And sponsored programs can represent a source of high-quality, generally very carefully vetted, partially or fully funded students, who often go on to become leaders in their communities back home.

There are additional challenges to working with sponsored students as well, and the SPA network is an excellent forum to share information and concerns with sponsors, programming organizations, and other institutions with active sponsored student populations.

This publication has been developed by NAFSA members for use by their colleagues. No part of this newsletter may be reproduced without written permission from NAFSA: Association of International Educators. The opinions expressed in wRap Up solely reflect those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect those of NAFSA: Association of International Educators. wRap Up and NAFSA neither endorse nor are responsible for the accuracy of content and/or opinions expressed.