To: Willard College Administrators
From: President Cotton
Re: Confidential news concerning Willard College Study Abroad and Foreign Student Recruitment
As I mentioned in our previous all-college administrator meeting, the financial future of Willard College lies overseas. While much of this is driven by U.S. college students’ desire to study abroad, the more immediate objective of getting the Willard brand overseas is to recruit high-yield foreign students who are interested in receiving an undergraduate degree in the United States. Our dilemma, however, is that the countries and regions with the highest density of full-tuition paying students are not the same places where the typical U.S. college student wants to spend a semester. Students flock to the Bahamas, Costa Rica, Spain, Italy, etc. Willard’s brand, by contrast, needs to develop name-recognition in Kuwait, Qatar, Bahrain, India, China, and other places with booming economies and sub-18 population growth.
Another challenge to attracting foreign students is the proliferation of institutes in places like China that offer college credits that can be applied back to US colleges for a fraction of the State-side cost. Put another way, getting the students to our campus is one thing, getting them to fulfill credits here is a whole different problem.
Having laid out the scenario of information that is fairly widely known, I now turn to a project that must remain entirely outside of public view. As our Director of Admissions began to search for promising tuition markets abroad, he was approached with an unusual, and to our thinking, quite interesting proposition. While visiting select high schools in Southeast Asia, our director was approached by an individual representing a foreign diplomatic mission. Over the course of dinner, the unnamed individual inquired about Willard’s tuition and admissions standards. With that basic information, he excused himself, returning ten minutes later to ask how many slots the director could offer to his clients. When the director explained that normally slots are not reserved for even a single student, much less a cohort, until they have been admitted and paid a deposit, the representative asked what could be done to reserve slots that cannot be reserved. Before the director could answer, the stranger leaned forward, and quietly explained “Let me be more candid.”
The individual in question was in fact a representative of the Democratic Republic of North Korea. For reasons obvious to anyone who reads the papers, the children of Party functionaries, from factory managers to the president, have a great deal of difficulty getting their off-spring admitted to foreign universities. From time to time, a particularly high placed individual has arranged for their son (rarely daughters) to be admitted to exclusive boarding schools in neutral countries.
The bottom line is that Willard College has been offered the rare opportunity to admit 300 students whose government will sponsor their tuition. Because of currency controls, tuition would be transferred in full to our bursar office, via North Korean accounts in Barbados and Singapore. Because of the added responsibility and risk, the College tacked on a 15% surcharge to settle any unforeseen problems associated with visas, health insurance, and defections.
One issue that was raised during the negotiations was the presence on Willard College campus of 50 South Korean nationals and an equal number of students of South Korean origin. Obviously, we will avoid having any roommate pairings that may result in problems. Specifically, any North Korean student who defects represents a lost tuition.
Another concern is that the incoming North Koreans have lived in isolation not only from the world, but from 99% of North Korea. As children of party officials, they have never washed a dish, washed their cloths, and in the case of several in the family of the president, brushed their own teeth.
The other problem is that we believe that the representative of the NK parents understood that our campus was in New York City. Given that the students will be here on third party passports and visas, our relative isolation may be an asset. Still, we anticipate that as the bus ride from La Guardia moves into hour three, and urban landscape turns surburban, and then rural, some will begin to plan their escape. Many of these students will be sent to the U.S. with fairly substantial amounts of cash, which may render it difficult to prevent them from leaving campus and the area.
Despite the numerous challenges to bringing North Korean students to Willard, the whole process has allowed us to imagine a new way to recruit foreign students. While traditionally, students are recruited, apply, and are admitted on an individual basis, Willard is hoping to start to begin the wholesaling of students. Just as stores buy in bulk, Willard hopes to begin to recruit, process applications, and admit students in batches from select overseas student cohorts. By a radical reimagining of the process, we envision diversifying the countries of origin of our students, and to recruit in untapped markets where clients cover tuition on a cash and carry basis. To be more specific, let us imagine families whose assets are in some manner completely liquid but also non-reportable.
Sincerely, Henry Cotton
P.S. Please remember to remind your department chairs and program directors that students on work-study must perform their designated work on campus. I have received reports of faculty telling students that their work study obliges them to perform domestic tasks in the homes and gardens of faculty. This practice dates back to Willard’s early years as a psychiatric hospital, but current federal student aid regulations prohibit these activities. Washing cars, delivering pets to groomers, and serving cocktails at dinner parties are not tasks covered by current work study regulations. The recent problems at St. Johns University should give all of us pause to reflect on what are tasks proper to our students.