The Positive Impact the Thrive Act Amendment Will Have on International Student Recruitment to the United States

In a positive move for international student recruitment to the United States, an amendment to the Thrive Act will allow US higher education institutions to use commission-based recruitment partners to support the post-secondary dreams of international students who want to study abroad in the US. 

A significant drawback to the Thrive Act, which was passed into law in June 2020, prohibited the payment of commissions to recruitment agents for higher education institutions receiving funding from a GI Bill.

“The United States is home to amazing, top-flight universities and the Thrive Act amendments will now allow these outstanding institutions to market themselves to top students around the world,” says Martin Basiri, Co-Founder and CEO of ApplyBoard. “This positive change will also enable students to get the support they need from a trusted advisor and provide better access to top schools at the same time. It’s absolutely an exciting development for the United States higher education sector.”

An illustration of a recruitment partner on his laptop.

The Importance of Recruitment Partners to the US Higher Education Community

A number of international educational organizations, including NAFSA, the American International Recruitment Council (AIRC), and the American Council on Education (ACE) sought amendments to the bill, signalling the importance recruitment partners play in international recruitment to US schools.

“The fact that the oversight resulting in the exclusion of incentive-based recruitment of international students was overturned says to me that the US higher education community recognizes and values recruitment partners to recruit international students enough to fight for the correction,” explains Amy VanSurksum, ApplyBoard US Partner Relations Manager. “This is significant because it sends a message that working with recruitment partners is acceptable business practice for higher education recruitment.”

An NACAC survey published in February 2021 on how US higher education institutions are working with recruitment partners during the COVID-19 pandemic reveals that 49% of US higher educational institutions currently work with recruitment partners. This number has been rising steadily over the last decade and longer, and is only expected to increase in the years ahead.

“The role of recruitment partners on the ground provided critical advising and support to international students who might normally wait for a traditional in-person college fair or institutional representatives to visit their country—but couldn’t and many still can’t—as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic,” says Amy VanSurksum.

Working with a recruitment partner helps demystify the study abroad application journey for international students. They provide expert advice on school and program selection, applications, visas, and travel, and can help increase the likelihood that a student will be accepted to the school and program of their dreams.

An illustration of a globe with a hat on it.

Breaking Down Barriers to International Education in the US

The Thrive Act amendment means that “US colleges and universities can compete for international student talent on equal footing with its global competitors,” says NAFSA Executive Director and CEO Esther D. Brimmer.

Brian Whalen of the American International Recruitment Council echoes this sentiment. “This restores an important recruitment tool to institutions at a time when the US seeks to attract and enroll greater numbers of international students.” 

The amendment to the Thrive Act is expected to have positive reverberations on international student recruitment in the months and years to come, helping to break down barriers for international students looking to pursue higher education in the US.

“It’s hoped that the fix to the Thrive Act will encourage more US higher education institutions that currently do no work with recruitment partners to reconsider their stance, resulting in more acceptance of the practice and greater access to students around the world,” explains Amy VanSurksum.

An illustration of Washington, DC.

A Year of Positive Developments

The amendment builds on a series of positive developments in the US international education landscape over the past year. As ApplyBoard Co-Founder and CMO Meti Basiri wrote in an ApplyInsights article published last year, “President Biden’s election, the US’s handling of the vaccine rollout, the reopening of international borders, and the recent joint announcement between the US Departments of State and Education have all contributed to international students, once again, feeling good about studying in the United States.” 

Students submitted an impressive 300% more applications to US higher educational institutions on the ApplyBoard Platform between January and July 2021 as they did over the same period the year before.

New Visa Guidance and Interview Waiver Extension

Finally, the year ended on a high note as new guidance was issued from the US State Department that should increase the likelihood of an international student’s visa application being approved. The guidance “ensures that the typical F-1 visa applicant won’t be penalized for not having the ‘ties of property, employment, and continuity of life’ that applicants for short-term visas, such as B tourists, might be expected to have, and instead to view these conditions in their proper context.”

The US is also extending visa interview waivers for many international student applications through the end of the year. While “embassies and consulates may still require an in-person interview on a case-by-case basis and dependent upon local conditions,” the move will help process international student visa applications more quickly and efficiently. More information can be found on the U.S. Department of State website.

The future indeed looks bright for international students looking to study abroad in the US.

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