Saturday, June 10, 2006

How to determine if your Agent can honestly help you!

In Canada and many other countries anyone can use the title education agent, counselor or consultant without any prior training, education, certification or registration. This is a completely un-regulated industry with no standards and no policing associations. The internet is full of "agent complaints" from students, teachers, schools, homestay and service industries.

Many students and their parents will sit across the desk from a convicted criminal in a fancy suit, expensive looking office, who is using a false name, a new business agency name which sounds like an established agency, and is falsely representing his agency contracts and licenses from schools, universities and institutes.

Eliminating the obvious frauds is not that difficult. Prospective customers should ask to see personal ID, business registrations, business licenses and references from the schools they represent and references from previous students.

Prospective customers should ask to see what education or training or experience qualifications the agent has. Did they finish high school? college? university? Did they study abroad? Have they ever traveled overseas? to that school? been to that homestay? Why are they recommending that school?

Local discount agents describe all schools as the same and then try to place students based on discounts. Any school advantages of professional programs, curricula, teachers, or systems are completely lost using price only discount agents. I have seen many agent whiteboards with the "price du jour" - just like the fish market. Some of these prices were falsely high then "discounted" to make the price appear better.

Students are also increasingly aware that most of the larger agencies are promoting their own schools located in Canada, USA, Australia, and New Zealand. Many Canadian ESL schools do not know that they are competing with "foreign agency owned" ESL schools. The foreign agencies have the market presence in the local markets and simply place the students into schools where they have an ownership interest. The MBA's call this vertical integration. The mega agencies would rather make 40 to 50% than the regular commission of 10 to 25%. When the 50% is transferred internationally the "Canadian Schools" run at a loss and do not pay taxes. The "Mega Agencies" located internationally pay from 3.5% to 25% income taxes.

Prospective students should investigate the agent and agency before giving them any money.

There are honest, hard working and professional agents who have visited the schools they represent, post actual student testimonials and continue to offer good advice based on years of experience. Students who work with professional agents and consultants actually save the most money and time going to the right school the first time.

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