Student Recruitment on a Shoestring Budget

Many higher education institutions aspire to have a diverse student population and be home to numerous foreign learners from countries around the world. But many of them also do not have any idea where to start.


A lot of the apprehensions stem from budget issues that prevent schools from pursuing as many international students as they need. Manpower, logistics, and connections – all these key ingredients in an effective student recruitment initiative are often perceived to necessitate a huge budget. But that doesn’t have to be the case.


Institutions can start recruiting students without shelling out money and this can be made possible through partnerships with the right service providers.


In this article, I will tell you how partnerships with international education service providers work and how they can help your institution begin student recruitment without the need to shell out a huge amount upfront.

Key Takeaways:


  • Student recruitment on a shoestring budget is possible through a performance-based model that does not have upfront costs.
  • Lead generation, marketing, and other recruitment-related activities are typically done for free in this setup.
  • In this business model, institutions only give commissions to agents upon successful enrollment of international students.
  • This scheme allows institutions to save on their recruitment budget and spend only on guaranteed enrollment.

When your institution pairs up with an organization that has all the resources for student recruitment, you effectively skip the setting-up phase. Your school no longer needs to determine how many people you should deploy to do the recruitment tasks. You no longer need to prepare the logistics because, as their partner, the recruitment services provider will allow you to utilize their resources.

Performance-based Model

This is the most important criteria for your low-budget recruitment journey to materialize. In paid recruitment, institutions can tap any company offering student recruitment services but obviously, they need to pay them to mobilize.


In companies that use a performance-based business model, student recruitment is done without any up-front payment. Institutions will only give commissions to recruitment agents when they successfully enroll a student.


In other words, all initiatives leading to enrollment such as marketing, lead generation, and reaching out to students are all done for free. 

In a performance-based model of student recruitment, if recruitment agents are not able to generate actual enrollment, institutions do not have any responsibility to pay. This setup saves schools from spending on activities that do not achieve any results.

How Does This Model Exactly Work?

With the performance-based model, institutions do not need to hire or contract agents themselves. The existing agents of international student recruitment service providers will be tapped to represent your school. The best service provider for this purpose is one where education agents are all well-vetted and are fully equipped with knowledge about various student markets. In short, they are ready to recruit anytime and anywhere.


Marketing activities in a performance-based model are done using digital platforms especially now during the pandemic where personal interactions are limited. Institutions’ programs get marketed through social media channels and via email. The education service provider also provides support on developing marketing collaterals and work on brand visibility through school fairs, webinars, and conferences.


In a performance-based model, education agents also take over routine processes such as pre-screening student applications and facilitation of offer letters. Meanwhile, the organization takes charge of the pre-departure briefings for students and their parents, and vet agent invoices to ensure accuracy.


Again, in the performance-based recruitment model, all these services come without up-front payment. That’s why institutions with a limited recruitment budget prefer this model as they only pay based on how much they benefit from the service. And they can start recruiting right away.

Moving Forward with Recruitment

The number of international students all over the world is expected to rise to eight million in 2025. Because of this rapid growth, higher education institutions must now begin considering strategies towards targeting the right and qualified foreign learners.


For institutions still hesitant to embark on this endeavor due to a shoestring recruitment budget, some business models will help you enroll international students at a very minimal cost. As of now, only MSM Global Marketing Office, or MSM GMO, uses this specific kind of performance-based model, as you can see on the company website.


Higher education institutions don’t have to be intimidated by cost considerations and abandon their vision of diversifying their student communities. Affordable recruitment solutions exist. It’s just a matter of discovering who offers them by connecting with organizations that will help you grow your student population and finding the right people who are in the business of making international education accessible to all.


For a more in-depth discussion of how institutions can ensure a successful student recruitment initiative despite a limited budget, you may tune in to MSM’s latest Think-In titled, “Creating a Global Reach with Limited Staff and Resources.” In this webinar, happening on the 27th of October, 1:00 PM – 2:00 PM EST, I will be joined by one of the top leaders in the international education scene, Mr. Gjergj Dollani, Vice President for Marketing, Bay Atlantic University. We will talk about how institutions can recruit students without the need to shell out a huge amount upfront. You may register for the Think-In here:



#PartnerForLife #GlobalEducationForAll #HigherEducation #StudentRecruitment #InternationalEducation #MSM

MSM GMO US Vice President May Arthur

Vice President, Global Marketing Office-US



May is a seasoned international education business executive with over 27 years of experience. She has held several leadership roles dedicated to growing and retaining the international student population at partner universities. 


Her broad areas of expertise include business development, organizational leadership, strategic planning, and global operations. She excels at developing and supporting partnerships with universities and managing global recruitment initiatives.


She has also been an active member of several renowned industry organizations including NAFSA: Association of International Educators, English USA, American International Recruitment Council (AIRC), and the Association of International Education Administrators (AIEA).


How the MSM model works. M Square Media. (2021, July 8). Retrieved September 24, 2021, from

Jagannathan, S. (n.d.). How post-pandemic education systems can welcome back international students. Asian Development Bank. Retrieved September 24, 2021, from 


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