This is a best prospect industry sector for this country. Includes a market overview and trade data.
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 7,054 during the 2019/20 academic year, representing a 1.88% increase over the previous year. Among the top receiving states are Texas, Florida, Massachusetts, California, New York, Maryland, Virginia, Pennsylvania, Georgia, and Louisiana.
Number of international students per country and academic level:
Source: 2020 Open Doors Report
Key reasons why Central American students choose U.S. higher education institutions:
In addition, studying abroad represents an opportunity to be more competitive and increases the possibility for better employment in national or multinational corporations. Other countries of destination for Central American students 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 for becoming a bilingual country, it is ranked #36 in the 2020 EF EPI English Proficiency Index (which evaluates the English language skills of 100 countries worldwide), followed by Honduras in position 49, El Salvador at 56, Guatemala at 63, and Nicaragua at 73.
According to the 2020 Open Doors Report, a total of 353 students from Central America participated in Intensive English Programs (IEPs) [GZ1] in the United States, including 83 from Guatemala followed by Honduras (82), Costa Rica (80), El Salvador (64), Nicaragua (42), and Belize (2).
Central American students are primarily attracted to the following programs in the U.S.:
In the 2019/2020 academic year, El Salvador ranked 20th among the top 25 places of origin for international students attending community colleges, an increase of 0.8% compared to the previous year.
Among the top fields of study and majors are business and management, engineering, math and computer science, physical and life science, and social sciences.
The COVID-19 pandemic created new opportunities in the education sector for virtual education programs. As of November 2020, schools in the Central American region continue to provide virtual classes and reopening plans are scheduled for the first semester of 2021. One of the main challenges for the governments of each country is access to the Internet and lack of availability of computers for each student.
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, U.S. Commercial Service offices, and EducationUSA offices in the region are committed to increasing the number of students studying in the U.S. [GZ2] [GZ3] 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.
On July 2017, Honduras launched the government-sponsored presidential program for international scholarships “Honduras 20/20,” aimed at supporting graduate studies abroad for students of 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 funds for five $40,000 grants for students to study STEM subjects at community colleges in the U.S. This program will end in 2021.
To enter the Central American market, it is highly recommended for U.S. universities, community colleges, and/or technical institutions to:
It is recommended that all marketing materials and program information be available in Spanish.
DIGTIAL MARKETING STRATEGIES
Due to Covid-19, the use of digital platforms has increased during 2020. There are different platforms preferred by the Central American students, depending on the activity or information desired. Below, is a list of preferred platforms in the region.
It is important for U.S. higher education institutions to share information with both students and parents, as the latter will be part of the decision process. Information is usually shared by email or during an education fair. As of recently, WhatsApp is being used to send information or conduct video calls.
Finally, when a student is ready to incorporate into the labor market, they seek job opportunities through job fairs, direct recommendations of a professor or Dean, head hunting websites, or LinkedIn.
Competitor countries usually promote their programs through participation in education fairs or paid advertisements on Facebook and Instagram. It is recommended that U.S. higher education institutions or U.S. study state consortia replicate this practice and seek partnerships with the U.S. Commercial Service and/or EducationUSA. The inclusion of short testimonial videos in Spanish is highly recommended.
Locations: El Salvador, Honduras, Guatemala
Locations: Honduras, El Salvador, Guatemala, Costa Rica
For additional country-specific events and activities, please reach out the U.S. Commercial Service contacts below.
U.S. COMMERCIAL SERVICE CONTACTS
Isabel Salazar, Commercial Specialist
U.S. Commercial Service – Costa Rica
Phone: 506 2519-2263
Lidia Sosa, Senior Commercial Specialist
U.S. Commercial Service – El Salvador
Phone: 011 503 2501-2999 ext. 3144
Karla Salas, Commercial [GZ4] Specialist
Phone: 502 2326-4261
Rossana Lobo, Senior Commercial Specialist
U.S. Commercial Service – Honduras
Phone: 504 2236-9320 Ext. 4842
Havivi Rodriguez, Commercial Assistant
U.S. Commercial Service – Honduras
Phone: 504 2236-9320
[GZ1]U.S. industry recognizes IEPs as Intensive English Programs (IEPs). I’ve added capital letters as the start of these.
[GZ2]I would like clarification here since it’s CS that works with the business community to promote executive training and professional development programs. Is this being done by EducationUSA in Central America? That is the impression given here. The 100,000 Strong is developed by Partners of the Americas and should not be treated interchangeably with EducationUSA. We may want to tease out who supports this. Where it says “All U.S. embassies” we should note, “All U.S. embassies, U.S. Commercial Service and EducationUSA offices in the region…”
[GZ4]We should go with “Commercial Specialist” since this is a better known title to clients.