Higher education is not free in Costa Rica, but it’s affordable at around $200 per year and scholarships are available. Direct payment by students in public universities makes up less than ten percent of the university budget, and while scholarships are available in private schools, they are fewer and less generous. Some of the public universities even offer free talks and seminars to the general public which are usually advertised in local newspapers.
Entrance to a university in Costa Rica requires a Bachillerato qualification and some universities require an entry exam. Higher education is comprised of three different types of institution - state universities, private universities and para-universities (which are both state and private). There are four main state universities, each of which has several different campuses and satellite branches; fifty private institutions; seven public para-universities and thirty four private para-universities. Unfortunately, many students leave their higher education courses without finishing their careers because they need to find work, despite funding.
Of course there is always the option of vocational schooling. Like anywhere else, Costa Rica has schools and education programs directed towards specific careers or for specific needs. One of the options is a para-university, which is similar to a community college or associate school, and offers a shorter program than the average university program. Costa Rica also offers commercial, industrial, agricultural and technical vocational schools. These programs have a very high enrollment, and are geared towards one’s desired career.
Studying abroad in Costa Rica
Costa Rica is a popular destination for students looking to study abroad due to the climate, the high standard of the education system and the opportunity to learn Spanish. Latin Americans from outside of Costa Rica are also drawn to the country as it has better universities than much of the rest of the continent.
There are a wealth of opportunities for expats wishing to study in Costa Rica, from language courses to university programs and internships. There’s so much on offer, you could even try a combination of study options.
The largest university in the country is The University of Costa Rica in San Pedro - boasting more than 35,000 students - which welcomes international students and has a dedicated team to deal with expats.