The problem with education agents…

“My education agents aren’t recruiting enough international students.”

“We sign up new education agents but often don’t hear from them again.”

“Most of our education agents are unproductive. The majority of the international student enrollments through our education agent channel come from just a few of our agents.”

There are just some of the complaints that we hear from universities, colleges and schools that are using education agents to recruit international students.

Education agents can be a very effective channel for recruiting international students to your institution.  They have been used extensively for a long time institutions in Australia and the UK, and use of agents by US institutions is on the rise (PIE News).  It is now estimated that up to one third of US colleges are using education agents to recruit international students.

In short, education agents are a key part of the international student recruitment market, and the use of agents is likely to keep growing in the years ahead.

Time wasters and crickets

Building an education agent network takes time.  New agents have to be identified, vetted and signed up to an agency agreement.  Once on board they need to be educated about your institution and provided with the latest marketing materials.

After going through all that then, as an in-house student recruiter, you quite reasonably expect that your newly recruited agents will start producing enrollments. It is very frustrating when you hear nothing – crickets.

Actually, it is worse than frustrating, it is inefficient. The time wasting agents sit on your list and produce very few enrollments or none whatsoever.  All the time they are sapping your administrative resources.

The 80/20 rule

As we listened to clients expressing frustration and annoyance with unproductive education agents a light bulb went on.   We realized that we were seeing the Pareto Principle, or 80/20 rule, in action:

When it comes to the use of education agents, a small number of agents are generally responsible for the majority of enrollments, while the rest of your agents together generate a much smaller number of enrollments.

If that is right then, as they say, knowledge is power.  You can shift your focus from thumping your desk angrily about unproductive agents and focus instead on what’s working.

To do that, there are two guiding principles:

  1. Reinforce strength – support your high performing agents to maximize the number of enrollments they generate.
  2. Cut early – Identify unproductive and/or disengaged education agents early and cut them asap.

Putting it into practice

There are lots of ways to implement the two principles above in your education agent management approach.  Here are a few ideas.

1. Set up an agent portal

The most efficient way to engage with education agents in a regular and systematic way is through a dedicated agent portal which can only be accessed by in house recruiters and approved agents.

An agent portal enables you to support high performing agents and to quickly identify under performing agents.

A well designed agent portal enables in-house recruiters to:

  • upload marketing material
  • provide updates to agents
  • automatically notify agents of updates
  • accept agent generated applications
  • automatically generate agent certificates for authorized agents
  • monitor agent engagement, and
  • monitor agent performance

AgentBee offers a fully featured agent portal that you can easily ‘bolt on’ to your website without disrupting it at all.

2. Set a minimum enrollment quota

Many institutions incentivize agents by building performance bonuses into their agency agreements.  Commission rates are tied to the number of students the agent recruits.

However, universities, colleges and schools that use agents should also consider setting a minimum number of students that an agent must recruit over a nominated period. If the agent does not meet that quota, the agency agreement should be terminated.

You can provide some wiggle-room here.  For example if an agent gets close to the quota and can make a good case for why they will achieve the target in the next period, you might want to give them another chance.  If they can’t, then apply the cut early principle.

3. Monitor engagement

If you are using email to send updates and marketing material to your agents, which agents are actually reading it? Most of the main email marketing platforms – eg Mailchimp, Constant Contact – enable you to see who has opened the emails you have sent. You should check this regularly and question the engagement of any agent that is not accessing the material you provide.

Disengaged agents are wasting your time. Consider cutting them.

Final Thoughts

There is a lot of work involved in building and maintaining a productive education agent network.  All of that burden and resource cost sits with in-house recruiters.

Unfortunately it is a fact of life that there are education agents out there who will waste your time by going through the process of signing up with your institution and then not recruiting any international students.

You can minimize that risk by implementing the simple steps discussed in this post.

Need help implementing this solution?

AgentBee enables in-house recruiters to actively manage their education agents, easily implement the ideas above, and ultimately generate more international student enrollments. Find out more.