Known as the “green country” for having 6% of the world’s biodiversity but only 0.03% of the Earth’s surface, Costa Rica is the perfect place for those who love nature, tropical weather, and nightlife. Located in Central America, Costa Rica has a growing economy with great opportunities for university students. Higher education institutions have up-to-date facilities, affordable prices, and a diverse student body. In this article, we will be looking at the cheap universities in Costa Rica.

Located between two oceans, Costa Rica has a lot to offer to prospective students, especially to those interested in specialties related to nature and the environment. This small country has over 100 volcanoes, more than 10,000 plant species, and around 25% of the territory is protected. Tourism and eco-tourism are the main industries of the country.

Another interesting fact is that Costa Rica is a demilitarized country, so the money that originally went to the armed forces is now used for education. That’s why public universities have modern facilities, up-to-date curriculums, and many cooperation agreements with universities around the world.

Regarding living costs, renting a one-bedroom apartment in Costa Rica costs between 375 USD and 500 USD depending on the zone. A monthly pass costs around 40 USD, and the price of the basic basket (52 products) is about 100 USD.

Costa Rica’s currency is called “colon” (CRC). 1,000 CRC are 1.76 USD (2019).

The Higher Education System in Costa Rica

Costa Rican universities divide into three groups: public, private, and para-university institutions, which are both public and private. There are 50 private universities and four public. Public universities are often the cheapest universities in Costa Rica.

Besides bachelor, master, and doctoral degrees, they also have bachillerato degrees, which are shorter than bachelor degrees (between 2 years and 2 years and a half). So, don’t get confused, “bachelor” and “bachillerato” are not the same on their websites.

The Admissions process and Language of Instruction in Costa Rica

In general, you’ll have to submit passport-size photos, validated copies of your high school diploma and grades, proof of payment of the tuition fees, health insurance, and an income statement.

Some universities in Costa Rica offer programs in English or are fully bilingual. However, the majority of the programs are taught in Spanish. In this case, many universities offer language courses.

To be admitted, many universities in Costa Rica ask prospective students to take and pass an exam, or to go to an interview. If you are pursuing a major in Spanish and have to take an entrance exam, certain universities don’t ask for language proficiency certificates, as your Spanish level was already tested on the exam.

Check Also: Available Programs for International Students

The Cost of Universities in Costa Rica

As we said, a large part of the national budget goes to education. Public universities are very affordable and cost less than $1,000 per year.

Private universities are more expensive than that but are also cheap, especially the ones that are affiliated with international organizations. They also offer many scholarship opportunities.

Cheap Universities in Costa Rica

1. University for Peace (UPEACE)

The University for Peace (UPEACE) was established in 1980 with the support of the General Assembly of the United Nations. Antonio Guterres, the UN Secretary-General, is currently the honorary president.

The university focuses on the area of peace, international law, gender, education, and the environment. They look for students that want to contribute to global change and development.

This cheap university in Costa Rica is mainly for those who already have a bachelor’s degree and want to continue their education. It has four departments: environment and development, international law, regional studies, and peace and conflict resolution studies.

They grant master’s degrees in 10 different areas. They also offer specializations, doctoral degree programs, opportunities for undergraduate students, and joint and dual degrees in affiliation with other universities. Their programs are available in both English and Spanish.

The application process is completely done online. Although they don’t require to have a specific GPA or certain work experience, prospective students must demonstrate academic excellence. They also have to demonstrate previous work experience or involvement in the area they want to pursue.

Tuition fees depend on the program. For example, doctoral tuition fees are of 12,000 USD per year. They also offer scholarships and financial aid depending on the needs and academic performance of applicants. You can get a tuition waiver that goes from 30% to 100%. So, with these scholarships, you can make this university into one of the most affordable universities in Costa Rica!

There’s also a distance program that offers short courses and a Master of Arts in Sustainable Peace in the Contemporary World. Check their admissions page to learn more!

2. Latin American University of Science and Technology (ULACIT)

The Latin American University of Science and Technology (ULACIT) was established in 1987 and has a great reputation in the region. According to the QS World University Ranking, it is the best private university in Central America.

It has seven faculties that grant bachelor, master, and doctoral degrees. It also offers bachillerato diplomas. There are 54 bachelor and master degree programs, and 17 doctorate programs

This cheap university in Costa Rica is fully bilingual, which means that although many of the programs are in Spanish, research, seminars, projects, and bibliography are in English. There are also degree programs in English, and all students that aren’t native English speakers must take the BELT test.

The evaluation system is based on a “100% projects, 0% exams” philosophy, which means that they focus on projects, problem-solving, simulations, and other methods instead of focusing only on memory.

It has 6 modern laboratories of chemistry, simulations, occupational health, a courtroom, and a chamber for practices. It also has a space called Free Web Radio where students can complete video, audio, and photography projects. They are currently working to open a TV channel and a radio station.

Programs are divided into four-month periods instead of semesters, and the costs are divided per course. So, tuition fees depend on the major and on which period you will be studying. For example, the first four-month period of chemical engineering costs around 2,200 USD, and the complete program (ten four-month periods) costs 20,999 USD.

3. The Technological Institute of Costa Rica (TEC)

Established in 1971, the Technological Institute of Costa Rica (TEC) has two campuses: the main one is located in Cartago and the second one is in San Carlos.

It has 34 bachelor’s degree programs, 25 master’s degree programs, 3 doctorate degree programs, and 18 technical programs.

Their facilities include three laboratories (experimental economy, analytical hygiene, and microscopy), five academic centers, and 10 research centers.

The main campus in this cheap university in Costa Rica has a train, bus, and bicycle service for students and workers. Both campuses have residencies and offer scholarships for those students that need financial aid or cannot stay near the campuses.

Programs are divided into blocks. Tuition fees are expressed according to the cost of credits. So, for example, physical engineering is divided into 10 six-monthly blocks. Each credit costs 24,870 CRC (around 43 USD) and the first block of physical engineering has 13 credits. Students also have to pay an enrollment fee of 40,060 CRC (around 70 USD). This means that the first semester of physical engineering would cost 363,370 CRC (around 650 USD). This low tuition fee makes TEC one of the cheapest universities in Costa Rica!

Visit their admissions page to learn more about the entrance exam and document requirements! Remember to select your preferred language in the upper bar.

4. Veritas University

Veritas University was founded in 1994 after two higher institutions merged: the Veritas Collegium and the Technical Institute of Business Administration (ITAN). It specializes in the areas of arts, design, and architecture. It is also part of the LCI Education Network, which also specializes in the design and has its own foundation.

It offers bachelor degrees in photography, digital animation, cinema and TV, architecture, interior design, and advertising design.

Additionally, it offers an international program in fashion design, a bachillerato in product design, technical programs, specializations, and workshops.

The admissions process is explained on their website but is similar to what has already explained above. International students have the option of transferring to Veritas, so contact the university to see which credits qualify to be revalidated.

Although it doesn’t have residencies, it has a special program for international students. They can stay with local families that live near the university.

Tuition fees are around 5,000 USD per year. They have financing options for you to pay in a few installments, and there’s an honor scholarship for the student with the best grades.

5. INCAE Business School

The INCAE Business School has a great reputation in the Latin American region and worldwide. It has been ranked within the top 10 business school ranking of The Wall Street Journal, as well as in the top of the MBA program ranking of The Financial Times.

It has two campuses, one in Nicaragua and one in Costa Rica. They implement the “Harvard Case Study Method”, in which classes focus on real business situations. INCAE uses the past and current situations studied in Harvard but also introduces some that come from industries in Latin America.

INCAE offers different programs of Master’s in Business Administration with a focus on Latin America and with a global perspective. They also offer dual degrees with affiliated universities around the world.

Besides, INCAE has specializations, seminars, and workshops.

Along with academic expenses, tuition fees also include housing and food, because students are expected to live on the campus. The business school has scholarships and financial aid programs that can cover up to 70% of the expenses. With these scholarships, INCAE Business School is one of the cheap universities in Costa Rica.

To learn more about the entrance exam and document requirements, check the admissions section.

6. St. Paula University

St. Paula University was established in 1994 with the objective of addressing the situation of different fields that needed more professionals. It specializes in the health field and grants bachelor and master degrees.

It has six schools of audiology, physical therapy, language therapy, respiratory therapy, occupational therapy, and pre-hospital medical emergencies and rescue.

Besides laboratories and research centers, it has a publishing house. There are different centers where students have to complete medical practices and community work.

Tuition fees are at around 1,000 USD. The university has the option of transferring from other universities, so contact them if you’d like to validate credits from a university in your country. Check their website to learn more and don’t forget to select your preferred language in the upper right corner.

7. Earth University

The Earth University was established in 1986 with the objective of helping young people from all around the world to contribute to sustainable development and build prosperous societies. It was founded as a private university with the support of the government of Costa Rica, the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, and the United States Agency for International Development (USAID).

It has two campuses. The main one is of 8,342 acres and has laboratories, sport and recreational facilities, residencies, commercial planting of bananas, academic farms, forest reserves, and reforested areas.

The second campus is located in Guanacaste. It is 3,700 acres and offers seminars open to the public in areas like renewable energy and sustainable agriculture. Third-year students have to complete a 7-week internship on this campus.

Education in this cheap university in Panama focuses on four areas: social and environmental awareness and commitment, business ethics, scientific and technical knowledge, and value and personal development.

The student body is comprised of 436 students from 36 countries. More than half of them come from rural zones.

The university focuses on the field of Agricultural Sciences and grants the degree of Agricultural Engineer.

Annual tuition fees include housing, food (three per day), transportation, health insurance, and education expenses. Residencies are available for the whole student body. Students share a double bedroom with another person that comes from a different country. One of the residency buildings is completely sustainable, with solar panels, energy-saving lighting, and a rainwater collecting system for toilets.

They also offer different scholarships funded by international organizations. They are granted based on the needs and the academic performance of students. To learn more about admissions and scholarships, click here!


We hope that this article on the cheap universities in Costa Rica was helpful. To know more information on studying abroad, check out the Available Programs for International Students.

About the Author: Hyun Lee

Hyun is the founder at Global Scholarships. He has received a full-tuition scholarship at Birmingham-Southern College as well as $1,000 Burger King Scholarship for his undergraduate degree and has been offered a fully funded scholarship consisting of tuition, living stipend, and health insurance for computer science Ph.D. program at North Carolina State University. Read more about his scholarship journey here.

Share this article via

Leave A Comment