Good morning. I want to thank you all for coming and to welcome you to the 2019 EducationUSA College Fair. Our annual Fairs provide the most up-to-date information on study in the United States for prospective students and their families. I wish I had had such a target-rich environment when I was looking for colleges. This is your opportunity to show them what you can do and then convince them that you should be their next alumni.
EducationUSA college fairs have helped promote the number of Nigerian students at U.S. institutions, as well as directing them to financial aid and scholarships. According to the Institute of International Education, Nigeria recorded a nearly 10% increase in those studying in the United States in 2018, leading the rest of Africa. So, let’s keep that going and increase that percentage. As you know, Nigerians are voted the most entrepreneurial immigrant class in the U.S. So, this is your opportunity to pick up some of those skills, bring them back to Nigeria and change the future.
Prominent Nigerians who studied in the United States and returned to contribute to the development of their country include former president Nnamdi Azikwike who attended Columbia and Howard Universities. Onyeka Onwenu, former Director General of the National Centre for Women’s Development, attended Wellesley College and The New School for Social Research. So, these are people that you see on a regular basis that were educated in the U.S.
In addition to the College Fairs, our EducationUSA Advising Centers provide guidance on the college application process; help prepare candidates for standardized testing; and this is something that I wished I have had when I went to college because I am really terrible at standardized test. So, this is your opportunity to join our advising centers to hear more about how we do that. They also share information on student visa process requirements; and direct applicants to scholarship opportunities. EducationUSA membership is available to all interested and qualified students and I really encourage you to take advantage of what we are providing here in Nigeria for you.
In the 2018/2019 academic year, EducationUSA members received over 9.5 million dollars in financial aid and scholarships. So, don’t let money inhibit you from applying to college. There are opportunities to actually get support for that, but you can hear about those within our advising centers.
In addition to the representatives of 55 U.S. Universities, we expect over 1,500 participants from Nigerian secondary schools, universities, polytechnic, colleges, and related educational organizations, as well as government officials.
Our Education Advising Staff from the Embassy is on hand to answer questions and point you in the right direction. Representatives from our Consular section are also here to answer questions on student visas. I am extremely proud of this team because they are actually here for you and they are promoting the bilateral relationship between U.S. and Nigeria because nothing is stronger than those exchange programs and sharing education together.
Today you will be able to learn about your future opportunities and much more. You are entering a new exciting and defining period in your life. My college education created opportunities and opened the door for my dream career in the Foreign Service. You are now taking the same steps that I took many years ago. And for me, every day I go to work, I am very grateful for Hartwick College where I attended my undergraduate, and the University of California Davies where I went to graduate school. Those two places are where I learned about Africa and brought me here to the continent to work with people like you. So, I want to make sure that you all know that we are happy that you came and as we say in Nigeria, you are welcome.