As far as international students are concerned, Americans have always understood that these students come to America because American universities are so great. Or at least the schools are vastly superior to education opportunities in these students’ home countries.

Well, sort of. According to an article in Inside Higher Ed:

While the prospect still causes some squeamishness across higher education, 10 more universities have outsourced international recruitment services to private agents working on commission for every student they send back to the U.S.

IDP Education released the names of its “charter partners” Thursday, marking the company’s first public declaration of its U.S. client base. Perhaps more significant than the names of the institutions themselves is the fact that they have been publicly declared – an indication that the use of paid private counselors for recruitment abroad may be going mainstream, or at least coming out of the shadows.

Outsourcing higher education, really? “U.S. universities face unprecedented competition that, if left unchecked, could lead to another iconic American industry succumbing to foreign competition,” said Mark Shay, North American director of IDP Education, the international student recruiting organization that released the name of its U.S. clients.

Shay may be exaggerating; student recruiting is not exactly the same as manufacturing outsourcing, but operates along similar principles: wealthy international students are willing to pay more (or require less financial aid) for American schools. The trouble is that recruiting for these schools is outsourced to firms with no connection to the schools. Firms merely collect fees for the number of students they gather up.

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Daniel Luzer is the news editor at Governing Magazine and former web editor of the Washington Monthly. Find him on Twitter: @Daniel_Luzer