The Middle States Commission on Higher Education (MSCHE) published a "draft for public comment" document that includes a proposed change to the accrediting body's standards that would prohibit its accredited schools from using commission-based agents to recruit foreign students abroad.

Read the MSCHE Draft Policy

MSCHE set a public comment period from March 27, 2017 until April 17, 2017. The MSCHE website directs the public to provide input on this proposal at https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/CommentsMar27-Apr172017.

Text of the proposed policy change (with specific language bolded)

IV. Student Recruitment

Student recruitment should be conducted by well-qualified admissions officers and trained individuals whose credentials, purposes, and position or affiliation with the institution are clearly specified. The US Department of Education (USDE) prohibits incentive compensation (commission, bonus, award of a sum of money, or something of value paid to or given to a person or entity for services rendered) to institutional recruiters, independent contractors or agents based on success in securing student enrollment or financial aid by institutions participating in Title IV programs (34 CFR §668.14(b)(22) and §487(a)(20) of the HEOA). The Commission applies the same prohibition to all MSCHE accredited and candidate institutions regardless of their participation in Title IV and whether recruitments are domestic or international students.

MSCHE cites two provisions of law as the basis for its proposed policy change:

  • Section 487(a)(20) of the Higher Education Act of 1965, as amended, codified at 20 USC 1094(a)(20)
    • (Note: the MSCHE draft incorrectly cites the "HEOA," an acronym that refers to the Higher Education Opportunity Act of 2008; MSCHE likely meant to cite to the HEA, the Higher Education Act of 1965, as amended. The HEA contains section 487(a)(2), not the HEOA.
  • 34 CFR 668.14(b)(22), the Department of Education regulation that implements Section 487(a)(20) of the Higher Education Act

Both the statute and regulation prohibit institutions from providing a "commission, bonus, or other incentive payment" to agents engaged in any "student recruiting or admission activities." However, these provisions also contain an express exception, stating that the general prohibition on use of incentive-based recruiting agents does "not apply to the recruitment of foreign students residing in foreign countries who are not eligible to receive Federal student assistance."

The proposed MSCE policy would extend the same prohibition on use of incentive-based agents engaged in domestic recruiting, to those engaged in recruitment of international students as well, despite the law's exception for recruitment of foreign students.