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US: Movement on standards and certifications for higher education professionals

There are recent developments worth noting with regard to quality assurance in two professional areas within US higher education: the recruitment of international students and the provision of student services more generally.

With regard to international student recruitment, 2011 saw a great deal of debate about how (or even whether) paid agents should be used by US higher education institutions seeking to recruit international students (see ACA Newsletter – Education Europe, August 2011). At the end of 2011, two key organisations focused on this issue took steps to move the conversation forward. The National Association for College Admission Counseling (NACAC) appointed a 27-member Commission on International Student Recruitment to explore the issue in-depth over a period extending until at least October 2012. The commission, which meets for the first time in March 2012, will look into such aspects as existing institutional policies and practices for international student recruitment, obstacles institutions face in this work and possible solutions to address these challenges, and federal policy challenges facing US institutions wishing to engage in such recruitment activity. For its part, the American International Recruitment Council (AIRC) released on 4 January 2012 revised certification standards which come as a result of a review process in late 2011. Amongst the innovations, there is a shift in language across many of the standards from an ‘expectation’ of certain kinds of behaviour and performance to one of clear conformity with the ethical and professional standards articulated. AIRC has also introduced a new guideline to restrict agents from collecting remuneration from student clients contingent upon scholarship awards or financial aid monies received by accepted students.

Meanwhile, The American College Personnel Association (ACPA) is causing a stir with its proposal to introduce a voluntary Student Affairs Credential Program. ACPA argues that, in the face of very diverse points of entry into the student affairs profession in American higher education, it is helpful to have in place more standardised processes for practitioners to demonstrate that they have the skills and knowledge required to perform their jobs effectively and appropriately. Many applaud what they see as an effort to validate the student affairs profession and bolster a culture of on-going professional development. Critics worry, though, that the “voluntary” nature of what ACPA proposes undermines its value. Others see it as an unnecessary layer of oversight in a context where there are already myriad degree programmes focused on higher education administration, with heavy emphasis on the development of competent student affairs professionals.

National Association for College Admission Counseling (NACAC) American International Recruitment Council (AIRC) American College Personnel Association (ACPA)