Colombia - Country Commercial Guide

This is a best prospect industry sector for this country. Includes a market overview and trade data.

Last published date: 2022-03-25

Capital: Bogota

Population: 50.4 million (July 2021 est.)

GDP (Purchasing Power Parity): $683.9 billion (2020 est., in 2017 dollars)

Currency: Colombian Pesos (COP)

Language: Spanish


UNESCO Student Mobility Number

Colombia has 52,064 students studying abroad according to UNESCO.


CIA World Factbook

39.65% of the Colombian population is under 25 years old.



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 that make the United States a leading destination, the most notable being: increased employment opportunities after graduation; the high quality of education; the opportunity to improve English skills; and a renewed push by the Government of Colombia to encourage English bilingualism. Furthermore, Colombian businesses are increasing their presence and operations in the United States and bolstering the need not just for English speakers, but for Colombians with 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 2020/21 academic year, Colombia ranked 19th in the world and 2nd among South American Countries, after Brazil, in sending students to the United States.

The COVID-19 pandemic has substantially impacted Colombian education. The Colombian government was forced to close schools, leading more than nine million students to learn from home. Additionally, the Colombian economy suffered as well, leading to a reduction in the number of students studying abroad.



Colombian Student Enrollment in the United States


There were 7,107 Colombians who traveled to the United States to study in the 2020/21 academic year; a 8.7 percent decrease over the previous year as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Colombian students in the U.S. are divided between graduate and undergraduate levels as follows:

Colombian Students in the US by Academic Level

Based on the data, Colombian students in U.S. colleges and universities contributed USD 305 million to the U.S. economy in the 2020/21 academic year.

Additionally, the U.S. Embassy in Bogota supports efforts to increase the number of Colombian students studying in the United States by supporting technology projects such as Ed, a 24/7 virtual adviser in Spanish, as well as various micro scholarships for English Language studies.

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. In addition, partnerships between universities in the United States and higher education institutions in the Western Hemisphere serve to increase student exchange opportunities and strengthen 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 collaborates with EducationUSA offices in Colombia to support various education fairs that include the participation of U.S. boarding schools, universities, and ESL institutions to promote their programs in Colombia.

With the global job market becoming increasingly competitive, the number of Colombian undergraduate and graduate students in the United States is higher compared with other countries.

This is partially due to the fact that in Colombia 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 graduate degree. Moreover, a degree from a U.S. university can serve to make job applicants that much more competitive in the Colombian workplace.

Most scholarships are awarded through two institutions, the Colombian Institute for Educational Loans and Technical Studies Abroad (ICETEX by its initials in Spanish) and COLFUTURO. ICETEX is dedicated to financing higher education through a system of financial aid that allows students to start or continue their undergrad or graduate studies either in-country or abroad. In 2020, ICETEX had 8,656 Colombian students with loans and scholarships for graduate degrees, PhD, and ESL programs abroad.

The second institution is COLFUTURO, a non-profit organization that provides funds to Colombian professionals and students to study abroad. Their loan program is available to students who have been accepted to graduate programs at foreign universities. Throughout 2020, COLFUTURO awarded 1,311 scholarships for master’s and PhD programs, with 252 of those scholarships being for programs in the United States. COLFUTURO has agreements with many universities, such as: Carnegie Mellon, Columbia University, Duke, Cornell, University of Florida, American University, Purdue University, Tulane University, New York University, University of Chicago, University of Texas, Texas Tech University (TTU), and Harvard University, among others.



Although COVID-19 has negatively affected the number of Colombian students abroad, the U.S. continues to be the first choice for students. However, one barrier to study in the U.S. is the exchange rate, which plays a major role in Colombian students’ decision to study in the United States. Despite this, demand and interest remain strong. International education is highly valued in the Colombian workplace, with a recent survey of Colombian employers finding that 58 percent preferred to hire people who had earned advanced degrees abroad.

For U.S. schools and ESL institutions, private and bilingual schools in Colombia offer great recruiting opportunities. Colombian 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.

In Colombia, relatively few high school graduates have an advanced level of English. Colombia’s outgoing Colombian government recently launched a program called “Colombia Very Well,” with the objective of promoting bilingualism throughout the nation. The government’s goal is to increase the number of high school graduates with an intermediate level of English to 185,000 within 10

years. This will server to additionally increase opportunities for U.S. English language institutions to enter or expand their presence in Colombia.

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

Additionally, Colombian universities have shown increasing interested in having agreements with U.S. universities that offer dual degree programs for their students. 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.

Beyond the economic implications, the availability of educational services carries even greater significance in terms of improving general living conditions in Colombia. A well-educated Colombian population is vital to the country’s economic growth and global competitiveness over the long term. U.S. educational services will also expose more Colombians to both American culture and American people, thus further strengthening cultural ties between the two countries.

There are numerous 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. 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 in Colombia.

In Colombia, there is a strong network of 11 EducationUSA centers administering language programs and doing extensive outreach throughout the country. EducationUSA centers are located at nine binational centers, the Fulbright commission, and COLFUTURO.



Education fairs are one of the most effective ways to recruit Colombian students. Colombia generally has a few education fairs throughout the year. Additionally, EducationUSA organizes one of the best fairs to promote U.S. education. This year’s fair in Colombia will take place in September in Bogota. Universities interested in participating and exhibiting at the fairs should visit the EducationUSA website.



  • U.S. Commercial Service - Colombia: · U.S. Commercial Service Global Education Team:
  • Industry and Analysis, Office of Supply Chain, Professional & Business Services: · Institute of International Education: · UNESCO Student Mobility Number: · Colombia Ministry of Education:
  • Colombian Institute for Educational Loans and Technical Studies Abroad (ICETEX): · COLFUTURO: · EducationUSA:



Julio Acero, Commercial Specialist

U.S. Commercial Service – Bogota, Colombia

Phone: +57 1 275 2635 Email: