Small but powerful
Though small in terms of population and geographical size, the Caribbean looms large when it comes to taking advantage of educational opportunities in the United States.
The Caribbean is one of the highest “sending regions” in the world to US universities and colleges and Maria Mercedes Salmon, Regional Education Advising Coordinator for Education USA, intends to see that it remains so.
Speaking during a recent familiarisation and networking trip to the region, Salmon said:
“Per capita, it’s very high compared to other huge regions or countries like Brazil — with the large population that they have, they are sending approximately 9,000 students a year. When you analyse that ratio, it’s much lower than what the Caribbean is sending.”
In fact, the Institute of International Education’s 2012 Open Doors report shows that there were 10,987 Caribbean students in the United States last year. This topped the numbers from many other places with much larger populations such as Nigeria (7,028), Australia (3,848) and Germany (9,347).
Salmon would like to see even more Caribbean students in the United States, with the help of Education USA, which is a US State Department-supported global network of student advising centres and the premier source for US higher education information. There are seven Education USA centres in Barbados and the Eastern Caribbean — one each in Barbados, Antigua, Anguilla, Dominica, Nevis, St. Vincent and the Grenadines and St. Lucia.
She is eager to see these centres doing more outreach and connecting with potential students outside of the centres, which are based in community colleges and public libraries.
“Definitely outreach is something we want to emphasise. Because right now the students that we are working with, we need to be more out there and be where they want to be,” said Salmon, emphasising that using technology and social media would be a part of this push.
The education expert also wants to increase the diversity of Caribbean students’ school choices, noting that due to historical and family ties, the vast majority of students pick schools in Florida or along the eastern seaboard.
“We want to also increase awareness that there are many other good schools in the US that could be affordable for a family from [the region],” she said, adding:
“The US wants to receive more international students from this region and not [just] in schools in Florida but also the Midwest for example which is a great place to be!”