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Financial Aid Opportunity for Latin American and Caribbean scholars to Pursue Higher Education in the United States*
There is no doubt that the educational loans represent an option to settle a portion of the costs of higher education, particularly for international students and scholars. But to become indebted for the total cost of study, for example in a university in the United States, can easily become a financial nightmare. The matriculation cost for universities in the United States has risen considerably in the last ten years, much more than, on average, the inflation index. It is no wonder that the number of Latin American and Caribbean students and scholars in US universities and institutions has diminished.
However, the investment in advanced education for professionals who carry out activities of scientific research and development, engineering, and higher technology is fundamental for a country’s economic development. Today it is insufficient to solely acquire a degree, masters or doctorate; it is more and more common that the concept of continuing education throughout a professional life is emphasized by the constant need to continue developing themselves in distinct areas of study. Therefore, why not explore greater collaboration between US and Latin American universities with an educational or research-oriented exchange? The cooperation of various institutions could minimize the financial charge so that scholars and researchers from each country in the region could attend universities in the United States, either to work as visiting professors or as students in research programs at the university level.
United States universities should, primarily, be open to offering more program options, which could include an exchange semester for scholars or researchers, continuing education to update acquired knowledge, and a varied offering of courses, both conventional and on line, among others. Thus, universities should be willing to offer a reduction on matriculation cost, paid internships, or similar incentives with the objectives of creating links and attracting these types of professionals. On the other hand, the employee or supporting institution in the home country should promise to continue paying the beneficiary’s salary during the period of his or her studies or training. In addition, they also can consider paying all or part of the matriculation cost. This multiplier effect, which generates the formation of professionals and scholars once in the United States that return to their countries, creates a high impact, without mentioning the decrease in the brain drain of Latin-American professionals, as their jobs are promised upon their return.
Returning to the theme of educational loans, though counting on the help on both the US university and local institution, it is possible that the scholar or researcher will need to use their own resources or acquire loans to cover the remainder of the costs associated with the studies abroad. One option of covering these costs is to make use of the Leo S. Rowe Pan-American Fund (www.oas.org/rowe), a program provided by the OAS that strives to expand the educational opportunities for talented students, scholars, professionals, and researchers from the entire region offering interest free loans to improve their education in the United States. Said fund grants supplementary loans up to $15,000 dollars that can be used to cover course studies, living expenses, and other costs related to studies in the United States. Upon completion of their studies, the beneficiaries must then return to their home country in order to apply the training and the acquired knowledge, thus contributing to the economic and social development of the region.
Lina M. Sevillano
Department of Human Development
Organization of American States
*The ideas, thoughts, and opinions expressed are not necessarily of the OAS nor of its member states. The opinions expressed are the responsibility of the authors.