Friday, November 16, 2012

An Oasis in the Desert

It’s quiz time! You are in northern Peru walking in a serene algarroba forest; some areas with large expanses of manicured grass, others raw desert. In a branch overhead a four-foot long iguana is peering down at you. The silence is occasionally interrupted by bird calls and the piercing cry of a male peacock with full plumage extended, perhaps warning off other males or simply strutting to impress his harem. A fox crosses your path, showing no concern over your presence. He may be hunting squirrels seen in the treetops. In the distance are three deer, laying in shade to escape the mid-day heat. You are not in a nature reserve. Where are you? Not sure? Here are a few more hints.

The path you’re walking, which seems to go on forever is squeaky-clean tile and concrete, with modern light pole fixtures. In addition to the animals, scattered in the forest are modern large buildings, also squeaky-clean and tastefully designed. The intent was obviously to blend buildings and forest to create a single entity. You are less than three minutes from the congested hustle and bustle of a major city. You are not in a zoo….so where are you?

The answer is you are walking in the walled-in 320 acre campus of the University of Piura in Piura Peru. Founded in 1969 this university, also located in Lima is ranked among the top 10 universities in Peru. It offers undergraduate degrees in educational sciences, economics and business, communication, law, humanities and engineering. It also boasts of a language center where English is taught, and a Confucius Institute that works in cooperation with the Capital Normal University in Beijing.” Post graduate courses are offered for some of the schools.

Attending the University of Piura – often referred to as UDEP is not inexpensive by Peruvian standards for the upwards of 4000 students enrolled. Financial aid can be applied for, but without it tuition for the school of economics and business for example is $1,160 per month, or $9280 per year for the 8 months of classes. For comparison, the annual tuition cost for the University of Wisconsin – Madison is $10,378. Room and board for out of area students, which are private homes located off campus contracted with by UDEP adds another $350 per month.

Most private universities in northern Peru cost considerably less, and the national universities 80% less than the expense of attending UDEP. Does the reputation and beautiful campus translate into a better education?  In the absence of information regarding faculty qualifications, graduation rates, campus recruiting and job placement one can only speculate, but the fact that many prominent Peruvian families have sent/are sending their children to attend would suggest that it’s a good bet.

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