Colombia - Country Commercial Guide

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

Last published date: 2022-11-24

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 factors being increased employment opportunities after graduation, the high quality of education, the chance 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 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 2020/21 academic year Colombia was ranked 23rd in the world and second among South American Countries (after Brazil) in sending students to the United States.

COVID-19 has impacted the Colombian economy, which had shown a reduction in the number of students studying abroad.

Leading Sub-Sectors

Table 1: Colombian Student Enrollment in the United States





Number of Colombian Students




% Change from Previous Year




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 due primarily to the COVID-19 pandemic. Colombian students in the United States are divided between graduate and undergraduate levels as follows:

Table 2: Colombian Students in the United States by Academic Level 2020/2021

Academic Level



% Total

% Change
















Practical Training





Based on data from the Institute of International Education, Colombian students in U.S. colleges and universities contributed USD 305 million to the U.S. economy in the 2019/2020 academic year.

The U.S. Embassy in Bogotá supports efforts to increase the number of Colombian students studying in the United States through technology projects such as Ed, a 24/7 virtual adviser in Spanish, and various micro-scholarships for English Language studies. 

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 or 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 Education USA offices in Colombia to support various education fairs that include the participation of U.S. boarding schools, universities, and English as a Second Language (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 has been growing over the past four academic years. This is partially because 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 master’s degree. Moreover, a degree from a U.S. university can make job applicants much more competitive in the Colombian workplace.  

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 financial aid that allows students to start or continue their higher education either in-country or abroad. In 2021, ICETEX approved 1,107 Colombian students for loans, and 891 obtained scholarships for master’s degrees, Ph.D., and ESL programs abroad.  The non-profit COLFUTURO provides funds to Colombian professionals and students to study abroad.  In 2021, COLFUTURO awarded 1,359 scholarships for master’s and Ph.D. programs, with 259 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 the exchange rate and the economic impact of the Covid-19 pandemic in Colombia are a big factor for Colombian Students wanting to study in the United States, demand and interest 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 U.S. 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.

Today, relatively few Colombian high school graduates have an advanced level of English. The Colombian Government launched a program called “Colombia Very Well,” with the objective of increasing the number of high school graduates with an intermediate level of English. The goal is to go from 9,000 to 186,000 between 2015 and 2025. 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 that have helped them strengthen their English proficiency.  Under this program, Colombian public schools and universities have received native 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 in Colombia.

In Colombia, there is a strong network of 11 Education USA centers administering language programs and doing extensive outreach around the country. Education USA 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. Additionally, Education USA organizes one of the best fairs to promote U.S. Education. Universities interested in participating and exhibiting at the fairs should visit the Education USA web page at


U.S. Commercial Service Bogotá

Commercial Specialist: Julio Acero  


Tel:  57 1 275 2635

Key Contacts

Institute of International Education

Colombia Ministry of Education

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


Education USA  (