The Dominican Republic is home to the oldest university in Latin America, the Autonomous University of Santo Domingo (Universidad Autónoma de Santo Domingo—UASD). While UASD offers free education through government funding, there are numerous other universities and institutes across the country. Enrollment in higher education programs in the Dominican Republic continues to increase steadily.
The Autonomous University of Santo Domingo
Higher education in the Dominican Republic has a rich history that spans more than 400 years. Dishearteningly, the UASD, although established for more than four centuries, obtained its first patent in 2020.
However, the UASD was the Dominican Republic’s only university until the late 1980s when there were a recorded 26 institutions and 120,000 students enrolled in higher education programs. In 1998, these numbers only went up, as a new record revealed a total of “29 universities…and 7 institutes with a combined total enrollment of 213,200.”
In the 21st century, the Dominican Republic is experiencing the effects of higher education. According to the American Association of Collegiate Registrars and Admission Officers (AACRAO), “literacy among the 8,715,000 citizens is nearly 85% (up from 70% in [the] 1980s).” Additionally, there was a notable increase in tertiary school enrollment, with a recorded 61% enrollment rate in 2019.
The Ups and Downs
While higher education enrollment in the Dominican Republic has increased, there are concerns. The country’s economy relies heavily on tourism and hospitality, industries that often do not require advanced education or technical skills. As a result, higher education has not been a top priority.
Dominican Today addressed another alarming statistic. In this article, Dominican Today gives insight into “Report Zero National System of Scholarships and Educational Support Credit,” a report published by the Dominican Republic’s Ministry of the Presidency. This report reveals significant information on the employment trends of professionals with various educational levels. According to this report, individuals with higher educational degrees “take an average of 4.07 years to secure their first job after graduating.”
Although the statistics for securing a job after more than four years can be startling, there is hope in the higher education of the Dominican Republic. It all begins with the National Council of Higher Education (Consejo Nacional de Educación Superior—CONES), an entity legislated in 1983 to formulate and coordinate plans and initiatives for the growth of higher education.
Other issues such as financial gaps can stunt a student’s progress in their educational career. Various scholarship programs have been designed and designated for individuals wanting to further their educational careers abroad. The Dominican Republic’s rural and low-income students have benefited from the economic opportunities provided by a program called Scholarships for Education and Economic Development (SEED) program, funded by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID).
Other programs such as the Organization of American States (OAS) and the Fulbright Program offer scholarships, grants and financial assistance for those who may struggle economically to fulfill higher education goals. There is even the Margaret McNamara Memorial Fund (MMMF), which specifically awards female students $12,000 a year in order for them to “return to their homeland for two years of service in work that will enhance and foster their country.”
Leaders in the Dominican Republic can benefit from higher education enrollment, and these programs provide increasingly valuable skills that support economic development. In an upper-middle-income developing nation like the Dominican Republic, an increase in higher education provides reason for hope, as it is essential to development and promotes economic growth for both individuals and the nation as a whole.
– Caleb Picone