This is a best prospect industry sector for this country. Includes a market overview and trade data.
Number of students studying abroad per UNESCO Student Mobility Statistics: Percent of Population under 24 years of age per CIA World Factbook: 
Costa Rica  3,098 Costa Rica  37.27% 
El Salvador 4,538 El Salvador 44.65% 
Guatemala 3,489 Guatemala 53.44% 
Honduras 4,801 Honduras 51.23% 
Nicaragua 2,596 Nicaragua 45.14% 
Belize    879 Belize 51.57% 
The United States is a leading destination for international students from Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador, Costa Rica, and Nicaragua. The number of Central Americans enrolled in U.S. higher education institutions reached a total of 6,924 during the 2018/19 academic year, representing a 2.1% increase over the previous year. Among the top receiving States are: Texas, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Massachusetts, California, New York, and Virginia. 
Number of International Students Per Country and Academic Level: 
Place of Origin Academic Year 2018/19 Undergraduate Graduate Non-degree OPT 
Costa Rica 1,157 563 392 39 163 
El Salvador 1,566 1,175 194 72 125 
Guatemala 1,192 765 244 34 149 
Honduras 2,191 1,480 389 74 248 
Nicaragua 443 235 99 29 46 
Belize 375 225 85 58 
TOTAL 6,924 4,443 1,403 255 789 
Source: 2018/2019 Open Doors Report 
Key reasons why Central American students choose U.S. Higher Education Institutions: 
  • Geographic proximity 
  • High quality education system 
  • Wide variety of institutions and higher education programs 
  • Good and diverse living environments; possibility of living with relatives while studying 
  • Availability of intensive and short English Programs to learn or improve English skills 
In addition, studying abroad represents an opportunity to be more competitive and increases the possibility for better employment in national or multinational corporations. Among other country destinations hosting students from Central America are Spain, Argentina, Germany, France, Canada, Chile, and Brazil.  
Central Americans in general are interested in scholarships and financial aid when evaluating universities. Community College degrees represent an opportunity due to lower tuition fees and simplified application procedures. 
Undergraduate programs are preferred, followed by graduate studies. English language programs have strong potential as there is low to moderate English proficiency in most of the region. Although Costa Rica has a comprehensive program to become a bilingual country, it is ranked number 30 in the 2019 EF English Proficiency Index (which evaluates the English skills of 100 countries worldwide), followed by Guatemala in position 48.  
According to the 2019 Open Doors Report, a total of 406 students from Central America participated in Intensive English Programs in the United States, including 153 from Honduras followed by El Salvador (73), Guatemala (61), Costa Rica (69), and Nicaragua (39). 
Central American students are primarily attracted to the following degree programs in the U.S.: 
  • Universities and Community Colleges with tuition fees lower than $20,000 
  • English Language Programs (from 1 month up to 1 year) for students, teachers, and adults 
  • Summer camps 
  • Undergraduate, Graduate and Master Programs 
  • Online programs 
In 2019, El Salvador ranked 24th among the top 25 places of origin of international students attending Associate’s Colleges
Among the top fields of study and majors are Business, Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM), and Social Sciences. 
The “100,000 Strong in the Americas” Initiative represents an opportunity to increase the number of exchange students between Central America and the United States. All U.S. Embassies and Education USA offices in the region are committed to work with the business community to promote professional development and increase the number of students studying in the U.S. Through grants competitions, the 100K Strong in the Americas Innovation Fund provides funds for innovative partnerships between U.S. and Latin American and Caribbean institutions of higher education.   
In July 2017, Honduras launched the government sponsored Presidential Program for International Scholarships “Honduras 20/20,” aimed at supporting graduate studies abroad for students with academic excellence. The program gives priority to areas under the economic development program “Honduras 2020,” which seeks to generate 600,000 new jobs and sharply boost exports by expanding and adding value to key investment sectors including textiles, manufacturing, tourism, and business services. In addition, Costa Rica has available five $40,000 grants for community colleges in the U.S. on students’ interest to start a STEM career. 
To enter the Central American market, it is highly recommended for U.S. universities, community colleges and/or technical institutions to: 
  • Seek partnerships or agreements with public or private universities to facilitate exchange programs for students and professors, recognition of credits and/or dual certification.  
  • Travel to the market to meet face to face with school counselors, parents, and higher education institution officers. 
  • Participate in local recruitment campaigns, fairs, trade missions, and outreach events in high schools, public venues, and universities. 
  • Provide in depth information about programs and the application processes 
  • Describe opportunities of scholarships and financial aid  
  • Provide information on the process to obtain a U.S. student visa  
It is preferred that all marketing material and program information be available in Spanish. 
Central America Virtual Education Fair (VEF) 2020 
Date: March 5, 2020 
Locations: El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua 
For additional country-specific information, please reach out the U.S. Commercial Service contacts below for a list of events/activities in each location. 
Roy Fernandez, Commercial Specialist 
U.S. Commercial Service – San Jose, Costa Rica   
+506 2519 2263 
Lidia Sosa, Senior Commercial Specialist 
U.S. Commercial Service – San Salvador, El Salvador 
+503 2501 2999, ext. 3144 
Antonio Prieto, Senior Commercial Specialist 
U.S. Commercial Service – Guatemala City, Guatemala 
+502 2326 4310 
Rossana Lobo, Senior Commercial Specialist 
U.S. Commercial Service – Tegucigalpa, Honduras 
+504 2236 9320, ext. 4842 
Lilliam Baez, Economic Commercial Specialist  
Economic Commercial Section – Managua, Nicaragua  
+505 22527100, ext. 7371 

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Belize Education Trade Development and Promotion