Coconuts and College

I knew I was in a foreign country today when I looked outside my hotel window and saw a billboard that contained this message:

Be health conscience. Eat a coconut every day.

I’m in Jamaica, where I’ll be the featured (and apparently heavily promoted) speaker at a first annual college conference in Kingston.

What could I possibly tell these Jamaican teenagers and their families about college? That’s what I was wondering when Sandra Bramwell-Riley, who operates Versan Educational Services, asked me to fly to Jamaica.

Sandra told me that there are a lot of American families who live in Jamaica and they are as clueless about their college choices as those living in the United States.

At a quasi press conference today with Jamaica journalists, I did mention that lots of colleges and universities in the United States provide financial aid to international students. Here is a list of colleges and financial aid statistics for international students that I find particularly valuable:

International Financial Aid

I haven’t seen a beach yet, but I have learned that student loans in Jamaica can be stunningly high. The concept of college loans is new in this country where there are no government student loans.

In extreme cases, parents, who can’t afford college bills, have sold their homes to be able to send their children to college. American families here have also made incredible financial sacrifices not knowing about the possibility of financial aid.

What really blew me away was hearing what the interest rate is on some private bank loans for Jamaican families – 19% and the pay back period is six years. And I thought private student loans in the United States were scary.

In other news:

The WSJ on Campus and Unigo.com are sponsoring a free webinar tonight entitled, The Secrets of College Admissions: What You Need to Know to Get In.

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