Higher Education in Panama
Panama has a fairly progressive system in place for higher education with an estimated 88 locations within the country dedicated to higher education. As of 2004, the University of Panama, West Coast University Panama, The Technological University of Panama, and the Catholic University of Santa Maria La Antiqua boast a combined attendance of 92,500 Panamanian students. High school is not compulsory in Panama and teens are free to drop out after middle school, but the country holds a literacy rate above 90% and education is clearly a cultural value in Panama.
The first Panamanian university was known as the Royal and Pontifical University of San Javier, and it had a heavy focus on theology and religious studies. Today, students study a much broader range of subjects from art to science, engineering to literature. However, religion and theology remain strong subjects for the country.
At the University of Panama, the leading higher educational institution in the country, faculties cover subjects including architecture, law, medicine and education, among other subjects. Students often attend the University of Panama in order to obtain a bachelor's before moving on to obtain a Ph.D from another school.
Panama's University scene actually isn't much different from that found in the United States in that it does not guarantee job placement, and courses might not include the sort of hands on, practical experience needed to excel in your chosen field. And so, as in the US, you have some younger people with more pragmatic aims looking into trade school as an alternative.
Of course, if your career ambitions can be covered in trade school, then it would certainly be impractical to travel all the way to Panama to study, say, carpet installation, but if you're pursuing a more long term degree, then Panama has a lot to offer, not least of which is the country's incredible wealth of history and culture, as well as the amazing sub-tropical weather, the wonderful people, and the fact that Panama is ranked fourth among Latin-American countries.
Tuition can be a little less, on average, than you'll likely find in your own home country, but travel can be difficult if you don't live on-campus or fairly near, so make sure to account for transportation when looking into funding your college experience.
If you're considering studying in Panama, you can check out http://www.ustraveldocs.com to apply for a student visa, and a number of American health insurance companies, like Cigna, offer coverage to people in Panama, as well.