What is the actual cost of a student agency? Each year, over a million international students choose to study in the United States. Like many international experiences, thousands of agencies specialize in the support of international student services. The type of services range, but overall, many offer similar competitive services. Prices for these services can range as well. Lower end services can start at a few hundred dollars for interview prep and reach upwards of $100,000 USD for a full range tuition package.
Now, students are able to choose from all kinds of services geared towards studying in the US. Essay correction, interview prep, college counseling, and even school placement are some of the advertised amenities of agencies. But are all of these services worth the increasing cost which agencies are charging?
Let’s take a look at some of the ways you can identify if you are overpaying for your student agency.
1. Confirm the services offered by the agency
First and foremost, what has your agency promised you as a service? Student services can range from essay correction to full tuition and education support. Make sure that the services you THINK you will be receiving are truly the services you are contracted to receive. Usually, services should be advertised on their website. Does the agency offer interview prep? Or do they guarantee admission to any institutions? Make sure the agreed upon services are listed on your contract or payment agreement. For example, if your agency advertises “airport shuttle” as one of their services, confirm that the airport pick-up is available to the school you have decided to attend. Many agencies advertise general services, but do not offer all services at every location. You may be paying for a service that isn’t even offered in your school!
2. Confirm the school package (housing, food, transport)
After you have confirmed exactly what your agency is offering you, identify and confirm the school package. Take a look at some of these basic questions to ask:
What classes does the school offer (AP, trade specific, job specific)
What extra curricular options do they have?
What is the placement rate of the school? (College or job)
What type of additional educational services do they offer?
Are you staying on campus or homestay?
Are meals and transportation included in this contract?
By looking at everything the school or university offers, you will be able to get a full understanding of the institution. Identify which areas are most important to your educational journey and make sure the institution that your agency is advocating for actually offers those factors.
For this additional markup you may be getting no additional agency service.
3. Verify the value of your identified school
When you identify the services the school and agency offer, you are able to finally compare the value of the institutions. Make sure the final price your agency is asking you for is the equal value of the school you are attending. For example, if your agency is asking $100,000 USD for a small school with no advanced classes, amenities, or support services, your agency may be asking too much. However, if the school has above average placement rates, is located in a prime location (such as a metropolitan area), and offers many additional extra curricular resources, this might be a sign that the value of a school+agency package is priced correctly. Identifying the actual value of your total education and agency services is the best way to know if you are being overcharged by your school or university in the US.
4. Independently verify the cost of your school tuition
Finally, independently verify the cost of your school institution through resources other than your agency. This step is the best way to verify if you are overpaying for your agency service. Contact the school or university you will be attending (or may be attending) directly. Educational institutions are very open about tuition costs. In the case of universities, tuition is publicly listed online. Always check the cost of the institution before signing or sending money to your agency. A common student agency practice is to markup services based on tuition. Sometimes, the final markup is over 100% of the original cost! For example, if the cost of a program is originally $20,000 USD, agencies will ask around $40,000 USD for tuition and agency services. For this additional markup, you may be getting almost no agency service. Confirm and verify that the cost of your agency service is exactly what you have agreed upon!
Studying abroad is a life-changing experience! Your business is valuable to both agencies and school institutions. Don’t be afraid to ask the tough questions up-front about cost and service. By identifying the real costs of your education, you will be able to find the agency and institution that is right for you.