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Asia and the Pacific

21st Century Education in the heart of the silk road – American University of Central Asia

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Site: Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan
Sector: Higher Education

Challenge: Nestled in the foothills of Kyrgyzstan’s Tian-Shan mountains, Bishkek is a vibrant and growing Central Asian capital city that has been working to restore economic stability since Kyrgyzstan gained independence in 1991. Bishkek lacked cutting-edge university facilities to educate and unleash the potential of the country’s dynamic young population. The American University of Central Asia was established in 1993 but the commercial lending needed to modernize university facilities was not readily available in Bishkek, which had a short fiscal track record, a small economy, and a remote geography on the edges of the rugged Central Asian mountain ranges.

Solution: In 2014, OPIC provided $6 million in financing to the American University of Central Asia (AUCA) to build a state-of-the-art campus in Bishkek, enabling the school to extend current programs and serve as an institute for research and development in Central Asia.

Founded in 1993, AUCA is an international, multi-disciplinary college in the American liberal arts tradition. It offers 14 undergraduate and 4 graduate programs with several US-accredited degrees. Due to its success and progress, it needed a larger campus, and AUCA sought OPIC financing to grow.

Impact: The OPIC financing allows AUCA to increase its enrollment capacity by 33 percent. The new AUCA facility also boasts environmentally-sound construction and technology, including geothermal heating and cooling, an ultramodern sewage system, sustainable irrigation systems, and the highest standard of energy efficiency in the region.

Alongside OPIC financing, further U.S. government support from USAID created an endowment fund to support grants for equipment and student scholarships – including Afghan students.

During the ribbon-cutting ceremony for the new campus, Secretary of State John Kerry recognized OPIC’s critical role in making this new facility a reality, and the importance of top-notch educational facilities in inclusive development. “This is a flagship institution that is transforming educational opportunities for students and for teachers all across the region,” said Secretary Kerry.  “The American University of Central Asia has provided thousands of students with a world-class education and the opportunity to go out and do great work. And I can promise you that as you make that effort, the United States of America will be there as a friend every step of the way.”

This project was profiled in 2015