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Online Schools & Degrees in Puerto Rico

Puerto Rico is an island in the northeastern Caribbean. Officially known as the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, it is an unincorporated territory of the United States — not a state — but its residents are considered U.S. citizens. Though democratically elected officials see to the day-to-day running of the island, it is ultimately governed by the U.S. Congress. Spanish is spoken predominantly in Puerto Rico and remains its national language, but English is also recognized as an official language. San Juan is both the largest city in Puerto Rico (by a wide margin) and its capital, which means it is also one of the island's largest economic centers. Bayamón, Carolina and Ponce lag behind San Juan in overall population, but all still boast at least 100,000 residents and have an economic impact.

The name Puerto Rico officially means "rich port," and its history of growing and trading sugar, tobacco and coffee speaks to that. Times change, however, and according to the Government Development Bank for Puerto Rico, the island's economy has become much more modern and diverse. Agriculture, once king, now makes up just 1 percent of the national economy. Manufacturing comprises the largest sector in the commonwealth, but a national emphasis on the development of knowledge and capital-intensive industries over labor-intensive sectors has given rise to busting financial and biotechnology markets. This rapid shift has been so successful in part because the government continues to offer businesses incentives for investing in the local economy, but also because, as the GDB notes, the island is home to a large, sophisticated and bilingual workforce.

Career prospects in Puerto Rico

The United States and Puerto Rico share a history and a currency, which means they also have strong economic ties. When something affects the U.S. economy, the island is typically affected, too. Such was the case in the 2008 recession. According to a 2011 report from the Government of Puerto Rico's Department of Labor Statistics, Puerto Rico's gross national product declined steadily between 2007 and 2010, but 2014 data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistic suggest that things have begun to level out.

Of course, some industries are growing faster than others: The PR DLS projects the professional scientific and technical services sector will produce most of the new jobs through 2018, followed by education and health services, transportation and hospitality. As service-providing jobs expand, goods-producing jobs decline. A by-product of this shift is that demand for skilled and college educated workers in Puerto Rico is growing — and fast. At least half of the careers expected to grow the most between 2008 and 2018, per the PR DLS, typically require some type of postsecondary training. Among them are:

  • Network Systems and Data Communications Analysts
  • Home Health Aides
  • Pharmacy Technicians
  • Computer Software Engineers
  • Personal Financial Advisors
  • Cardiovascular Technologists and Technicians

Thankfully, the many Puerto Rico colleges and universities are up to the task.

Schools in Puerto Rico

Puerto Rico colleges range from large, public institutions to small, private or for-profit schools. The two primary educational options are:

  • The University of Puerto Rico, which is both the oldest and the largest public system on the island
  • The Sistema Universitario Ana G. Mendez, which is the largest private system.

There are also a handful of career and vocational schools. Still, Puerto Rico is an island, so residents interested in certain disciplines might find options limited, at least in campus-based programs.

As a consequence, online schools in Puerto Rico are on the rise, just as they are throughout North America. These online degree programs provide Puerto Rican students with a plethora of new options, and many schools classify them as domestic students rather than international students when determining cost. This is true of many U.S. institutions, online or otherwise. Many U.S. citizens can, in turn, attend schools in Puerto Rico. Languages matter, however: Just as most U.S. colleges cater to English speakers, most Puerto Rico colleges cater to Spanish speakers. Puerto Ricans considering U.S. colleges should contact schools directly to clarify their residency requirements, and vise-versa.

Financial aid in Puerto Rico

Attending Puerto Rico colleges might be a valuable investment in students' futures, but they are still an investment — and, at times, a hefty one. Fortunately there are a number of financial aid options available to those who qualify. The Free Application for Federal Student Aid, or FAFSA, is a one-stop shop to apply for federal student aid, including loans, grants and work-study arrangements. According to FAFSA's official website, most Puerto Rican residents are eligible to apply. The application can be submitted online or by mail. Students should be prepared to reference and submit personal identification, income and tax records, and unmarried applicants under the age of 23 must often submit the same information for their parents, too.

Many Puerto Rican college students are eligible for nongovernment aid, too, including private loans and scholarships. Some of these programs are need-based, meaning students must meet certain income requirements. Others are merit-based, which means students must usually demonstrate exceptional academic, artistic, athletic or other special skills and talents. Most schools in Puerto Rico have financial aid offices staffed with professionals who can help students sift through their options and apply for aid, so check with your school of choice for more information.

Sources:

Puerto Rico Economic Facts, Commonwealth of Puerto Rico,
http://www.gdb-pur.com/economy/fact-sheet.html

Incentives, Puerto Rico Industrial Development Company, Commonwealth of Puerto Rico,
http://pridco.pr.gov/why-puerto-rico/incentives

"Puerto Rico Economic Analysis Report, 2010-11," Department of Labor and Human Resources, Government of Puerto Rico,
http://www.doleta.gov/performance/results/AnnualReports/2010_economic_reports/pr_economic_report_py2010.pdf

Student's Citizenship Status, Free Application for Federal Student Aid, U.S. Department of Education,
https://fafsa.ed.gov/fotw1314/help/fahelp39.htm

Puerto Rico Economy at a Glance, Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor,
http://www.bls.gov/eag/eag.pr.htm

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