COLOMBIA: IFC funds for low-income students

The World Bank's International Finance Corporation (IFC) is investing US$8 million in Colombia's private higher education sector to promote affordable technical and professional education for the country's low and middle-income students.

The private not-for-profit educational institution UNIMINUTO began operations in 1992 with 240 students, and today more than 20,000 students are enrolled in the university. But with new funding from the IFC, the Bogota-based UNIMINUTO plans to expand its intake by 10,000 to 30,000 students, focusing on regions that have limited access to post-secondary education.

"We believe that education is critical to promoting growth, social mobility, and stability in Colombia, and are committed to providing both high-quality and affordable education and to serving areas that have no access to services," said Father Camilo Bernal Hadad, UNIMINUTO 's rector-general.

The institution in particular plans to expand student places within economically important courses such as computer science, accounting, business administration and civil engineering. It will also expand places on courses that will help grow labour-intensive professions such as hotel management, tourism, agro-ecology, business management for livestock and dairy and occupational health.

"IFC's financing to UNIMINUTO is contributing to human capital development in the country by supporting universities with professional and technical programmes that address private sector demands and create opportunities to improve living standards," said Roberto Albisetti, IFC's regional manager for Colombia, Peru, Ecuador and Venezuela. "Supporting Colombia's education sector is a top priority for IFC."

As the World Bank Group, IFC has developed a specific strategy for the development of Colombia's social and economic sectors, such as infrastructure, health, education and public-private partnerships. As of June 2009, IFC has invested over US$1 billion into the country, its third largest investment portfolio in the Latin America and the Caribbean region.