Colombia - Country Commercial Guide
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U.S. colleges and universities remain the preferred overseas destination for Colombian students, despite significant competition from other countries like the United Kingdom, Australia, Spain, France, and Argentina.  There are several factors for the United States’ leading position, most notably, the high quality of education, the increased employment opportunities after graduation, and the chance to improve English skills.  Furthermore, Colombian businesses are increasing their presence and operations in the United States, bolstering the need not just for English speakers, but for Colombians with actual living experience in the United States and knowledge of U.S. business practices and American culture in general. The preferred states for Colombian students are California, New York, Texas, Massachusetts, Illinois, and Florida. The most in-demand fields of study are those focused on business administration, management, finance, banking, marketing, and engineering.

According to the Institute of International Education, during the 2021/22 academic year, Colombia was ranked 20th in the world and second among South American Countries (after Brazil) in sending students to the United States.

Leading Sub-Sectors

Table 1: Colombian Student Enrollment in the United States





Number of Colombian Students




% Change from Previous Year





Table 2: Colombian Students in the United States by Academic Level 2021/2022

Academic Level



% Total

% Change
















Practical Training





Based on data from the Institute of International Education, Colombian students in U.S. colleges and universities contributed nearly USD 345 million to the U.S. economy in the 2021/2022 academic year.

The U.S. Embassy in Bogotá supports efforts to increase the number of Colombian students studying in the United States through the EducationUSA network of advising centers, U.S. government-sponsored exchange programs, and various micro-scholarships for English language studies in Colombia. Additionally, the “100,000 Strong in the Americas” innovation fund, seeks to increase the number of Latin American students studying in the United States and the number of U.S. students studying in Latin America. Partnerships between universities in the United States and higher education institutions in the Western Hemisphere are increasing student exchange opportunities and strengthening regional education cooperation throughout the Americas.

Under government-to-government and private agreements, both public and private universities in Colombia have developed partnerships with universities in the United States, Europe, and Latin America. Priority is given to post-graduate programs for training professors as well as research to enhance teaching.

The U.S. Commercial Service at Embassy Bogotá collaborates with EducationUSA offices in Colombia to support various education fairs that include the participation of universities and English as a Second Language (ESL) institutions to promote their programs in Colombia.

With the global job market becoming increasingly competitive, there is a high demand from Colombian students to apply for undergraduate and graduate programs in the United States, which increases the opportunities for U.S. universities. This is in part due to the fact that it is difficult to obtain a high-level position within the government or an important national or multinational company without proficient English skills and/or a master’s degree. 

Most scholarships are awarded through two institutions, one of which is the Colombian Institute for Educational Loans and Technical Studies Abroad (ICETEX by its initials in Spanish), which is dedicated to financing higher education through a system of educational loans that allows students to start or continue their higher education either in Colombia or abroad. In 2022, ICETEX approved 808 Colombian students for scholarships, 562 for master’s degrees, 120 for undergraduate programs, and 126 for short and ESL programs abroad.  The non-profit Foundation COLFUTURO provides funds to Colombian professionals and students to study abroad.  In 2023, COLFUTURO awarded 1,856 loan-scholarships for master’s and Ph.D. programs, USD $ 14.2 M were awarded to Colombians to study in the United States.

COLFUTURO has agreements with many universities, such as Carnegie Mellon, Columbia University, Duke, Cornell, University of Florida, American University, Purdue, Tulane University, New York University, University of Chicago, University of Texas, Texas Tech University, and Harvard, among others.


Although the exchange rate and the cost of tuition are a big factor for Colombia Students wanting to study in the United States, interest and demand remain strong. International education is highly valued in the Colombian workplace and a recent survey of employers found that 58 percent preferred to hire people who had earned advanced degrees abroad.

U.S. schools and universities will need to provide new technology and tools to increase student engagement on campus and online. Colombian students have shown interest in new hybrid programs that allow them to take part in their classes in Colombia and then travel to the United States to finish the program on campus and obtain a diploma.

For U.S. schools and ESL institutions, private and bilingual schools in Colombia offer good recruiting opportunities. Schools are interested in sending groups to study in U.S. schools for periods that may vary between three weeks and three to four months. The goal of these short-term programs is mainly to acquire and improve English skills. Only 18 percent, (approx. 2mill) of the Colombian students attend private schools, out of which only 4 percent attend bilingual schools.

Today, relatively few Colombian high school graduates have an advanced level of English.  The Ministry of Education handles the National Bilingualism Program to strengthen the teaching and learning of foreign languages ​​in preschool, basic and secondary education. As a result of the implementation of this program, Colombian students and teachers have benefited from learning opportunities abroad, including in the United States, New Zealand, and England, where professionals have provided English educational courses.  Under this program, Colombian public schools and universities have received native volunteers and in few cases teachers to improve students’ and teachers’ English skills. This has opened opportunities for U.S. English language programs to enter or increase their presence in Colombia. 

At the higher education level, private universities also offer important recruitment opportunities for undergraduate and postgraduate programs. U.S. universities should make initial contact with the office of foreign relations in each university to introduce the U.S. university and its programs and areas of specialization.

Colombian universities are interested in having agreements with U.S. universities that offer dual degree programs to allow students and teachers mobility in both directions. This can be accomplished through a combination of two or three years at the local university and one or two years at the U.S. university.

There are concrete opportunities to increase the number of Colombian students attending U.S. universities. Those wishing to attract Colombian students should consider actively increasing recruitment campaigns to raise their visibility. This can be accomplished by using the various advertising media available, and by establishing direct liaisons with schools, language institutes, education agencies, students, and institutions at all levels. Social media is the best strategy to promote U.S. education in Colombia. The most common platforms are Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and WhatsApp.

Financial aid/scholarship opportunities and information on the process to obtain a U.S. student visa are essential topics for U.S. educational institutions when promoting themselves to local institutions. In Colombia, there is a strong network of 11 EducationUSA centers promoting study in the United States and doing extensive outreach around the country. EducationUSA centers are located at nine binational centers, the Fulbright Commission, and COLFUTURO.

Education Fairs and Trade Shows

Education fairs are one of the most effective ways to recruit Colombian students. Colombia has a few education fairs throughout the year. EducationUSA organizes one of the leading fairs to promote U.S. Education. Universities interested in participating and exhibiting at the fairs should contact

Key Contacts

Institute of International Education

Colombia Ministry of Education

Colombian Institute for Educational Loans and Technical Studies Abroad (ICETEX)


Education USA    

For additional information, including market analysis, trade events, and the products and services that the U.S. Commercial Service can provide to help you succeed in the Colombian market, please contact:

U.S. Embassy Bogota

Julio Acero  

Education Commercial Specialist  

+57 601 275 2635