Guatemala - Country Commercial Guide
Education

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

Last published date: 2021-01-14

Number of students studying abroad per UNESCO Student Mobility Statistics:

Percent of Population under 24 years of age per CIA World Factbook:

Costa Rica

3,326

Costa Rica

37.27%

El Salvador

4,553

El Salvador

44.65%

Guatemala

3,727

Guatemala

53.44%

Honduras

5,017

Honduras

51.23%

Nicaragua

2,953

Nicaragua

45.14%

Belize

   883

Belize

51.57%

 

OVERVIEW

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:

Place of Origin

Academic Year 2019/20

Undergraduate

Graduate

Non-degree

OPT

Costa Rica

1,240

614

414

38

174

El Salvador

1,581

1,183

189

66

143

Guatemala

1,195

770

235

38

152

Honduras

2,161

1,426

404

85

246

Nicaragua

489

311

106

25

47

Belize

388

232

97

6

53

TOTAL

7,054

4,536

1,445

258

815

Source: 2020 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-term 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. 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).

SUB-SECTORS

Central American students are primarily attracted to the following programs in the U.S.:

  • Universities and community colleges with tuition fees lower than $20,000 per year
  • English language programs (from 1 month up to 1 year) for students, teachers, and adults
  • Summer camps
  • Undergraduate, graduate and master’s programs
  • Online programs

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.

OPPORTUNITIES

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:

  • Seek partnerships or agreements with public or private universities to facilitate exchange programs for students and professors and 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 for scholarships and financial aid.
  • Provide information on the process to obtain a U.S. student visa.

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.

  • For virtual classes: Google Classroom, Microsoft Teams, Zoom, and Google Meet.
  • Social media: WhatsApp, Instagram, YouTube, and Facebook.
  • Research: Google search engine
  • Streaming videos: YouTube, Instagram, TikTok
  • For one-on-one quick meetings: WhatsApp

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.

EVENTS

  1. Central America Virtual Education Fair (VEF) 2021 for Graduate Programs

         Date: TBC

         Locations: El Salvador, Honduras, Guatemala

  1. Central America Virtual Education Fair (VEF) 2021 Study Mississippi 

Date: TBC

Locations: Honduras, El Salvador, Guatemala, Costa Rica

For additional country-specific events and activities, please reach out the U.S. Commercial Service contacts below.

RESOURCES

U.S. COMMERCIAL SERVICE CONTACTS

Isabel Salazar, Commercial Specialist

U.S. Commercial Service – Costa Rica

Email: Isabel.Salazar@trade.gov

Phone: 506 2519-2263

 

Lidia Sosa, Senior Commercial Specialist

U.S. Commercial Service – El Salvador

Email: Lidia.Sosa@trade.gov

Phone: 011 503 2501-2999 ext. 3144

 

Karla Salas, Commercial [GZ4] Specialist
U.S. Commercial Service – Guatemala

Email: Karla.Salas@trade.gov  

Phone: 502 2326-4261

 

Rossana Lobo, Senior Commercial Specialist

U.S. Commercial Service – Honduras

Email: Rossana.Lobo@trade.gov

Phone: 504 2236-9320 Ext. 4842

 

Havivi Rodriguez, Commercial Assistant

U.S. Commercial Service – Honduras

Email: Havivi.Rodriguez@trade.gov

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…”

 [GZ3]

 [GZ4]We should go with “Commercial Specialist” since this is a better known title to clients.