Once again shattering myths: Scores of quota students entering Federal University exceeded those of non-quota students on last entrance exam



Note from BW of Brazil: Often times in life, things aren’t coincidences at all; sometimes two events happen the way that two because they were supposed to happen that way and just coincided each other. Depending on what you believe and how you see it, these two events could be related to each because that’s the way life goes. Our story today is somewhat of an example of this. Yesterday we posted a story about a well-known journalist who is a representative of Brazil’s elites who hate to see any mechanism that allows Brazil’s ‘have not’ population make any gains in socioeconomic status and thus change the face of that elite.

The story about Globo TV’s Alexandre Garcia’s absurd comments on how students getting into college under the quota system can only achieve with ‘favoritism’, ‘connections’ or a ‘boost’ was met with numerous responses from not only students but also a professor. The story actually came out in the Brazilian press on January 15th. The story we present today once again proves that elite attempts to belittle the quota students have no merit, which, ironically, is the very quality they claim quota students don’t have. The battle over the system of affirmative action has raged on in Brazil for more than a decade as elites have attempted an endless array of reasons (excuses?) for why the system shouldn’t exist. In their view, these students getting into college under quotas can’t compete, shouldn’t be there and will end up lowering the quality of higher learning. Yet study after study continue to show that these students not only perform on par with their non-quota counterparts, they often actually outperform them

Based on these facts, my question is the following. In Brazil, financially secure parents (mostly white) are able to spend massive amounts of money in order that their children get a head start in the finest and most expensive elementary and high schools, thus nearly guaranteeing that their children will be able to pass the difficult vestibular (college entrance exam). Poorer parents (majority black) usually lack the resources to do the same for their children thus making their entry into federal universities almost impossible. What today’s material once again proves is that, given the opportunity, these students CAN indeed compete, keep pace or surpass their peers of more elite backgrounds. If that is the case, as has been proven time and again, on what grounds do they stand on their argument? If quota and non-quota students perform equally in the university despite the obvious advantages of students who attended expensive high schools, would this be a simple case of not wanting to see formerly excluded poorer students have the same opportunities while hiding behind unsubstantiated rhetoric? If this is not the case, I would LOVE hear another excuse. 

Scores of students who entered UFMG through quotas already exceeds that of non quota students on the last entrance exam

Cotistas (quota students) who were guaranteed a place at the Federal University of Minas Gerais (UFMG) this obtained scores higher than those of non-quota students who took the vestibular (college entrance exam) in 2013. The exception was only one course

By Márcia Maria Cruz and Juarez Rodrigues

Educacao / Livia Teodoro, estudante, foi aprovada em Historia, na UFMG, por meio das cotas raciais
Lívia Teodoro was approved in History and will be the first in her family to enter UFMG: “My grandmother is illiterate and my mother didn’t complete primary school” (photo: Juarez Rodrigues/EM/ DA Press)

Cotistas (quota students) arriving at the Federal University of Minas Gerais (UFMG) had better scores than those of non-cotistas entering in 2013, the last year in which the entrance exam was the gateway to one of the largest public institutions in Brazil, according to court surveys of the last four years that Estado de Minas (newspaper) had access, in almost all courses. The only exception was manufacturing engineering, and even in this there was a difference of less than one point. In one of the most competitive courses of the Federal university, the cotistas had to achieve a minimum score of 750.02 points to guarantee a place in medicine, a score higher than the extensive competition earned in 2013 of 685.3 points (see below).

In that year, the first in which the reservation of vacancies was applied in full – 50% of the vacancies, as provided by the Law of Quotas passed in August 2012 – the cotistas have faced greater competition among them. “The cotistas entered UFMG better prepared than non-cotistas a few years ago,” said the dean of undergrad, Ricardo Takahashi. In 2013, the reservation quota was only 12.5% ​​of all vacancies.

Of the 6,279 vacancies, 3,142 were destined to quotas for public schools, taking into account reserves for blacks and Indians. One was earned by student Talita Barreto, 20. “Every year the cut off score changes and we had more registrations for Enem. When I saw my note I was afraid of not passing, especially in engineering, which is a very competitive course.” Affirmative action was fundamental for the young daughter of a day laborer Helena Barreto, becoming the first in her family to be approved for higher education in a federal university. “It was a dream to go to college. My mother always insisted that I and my siblings studied. Quotas allow us access to something that is ours,” she said. The young woman was also approved, through quotas, for music at the University of Minas Gerais (UEMG).

Educacao / A estudante Talita Barreto que foi aprovada no curso de engenharia da UFMG nas vagas reservadas a cotistas.
Talita Barreto was assured place in engineering at UFMG and music in Uemg: “Quotas allow us access to something that is ours” (photo: Juarez Rodrigues/MS/DA Press)

In the evaluation of the dean, increasing the cut-off score is related to the adoption of the Sistema de Seleção Unificado (Unified Selection System) (Sisu). In 2013, about 60,000 candidates competed for the vacancies at UFMG. In 2016, the number more than tripled, coming to 195,600 candidates. In all, 158 300 candidates who had the option of enrolling in up to two different courses. “Sisu has the purpose of facilitating access to compete for university places,” he says.

In this issue, the differences between cutoff scores for quota students and non quota students vary between 4.8% (no difference observed in the course of library science) and 11.4% (biggest difference in the course of history). The average difference was 8.2%. “By definition, the cotista cutoff scores should be lower than those of the broad competition. Otherwise, quotas would have no effect,” says Takahashi. In 2014, however, however, the cut-off point in the course of History was higher those of non-cotistas. That year, the average difference was 6.9%.

The expectation of the dean is that the implementation of quotas in its totality can recover the proportion of low-income students linked to UFMG until 2013. That year, 49% of students came from families with incomes of up to five minimum salaries. This proportion fell after the adoption of Sisu to 42% in 2014 and to 46% in 2015.


With the increased percentage of vacancies destined to cotistas, one of the factors expected by Takahashi is that the inflow of municipal and state school students be expanded. In the early years of the quotas, there was a domain of students from federal schools – these institutions occupy the first places in the ranking of the Exame Nacional do Ensino Médio (Enem or National Secondary Education Examination) 2015. “It’s likely to increase slightly the proportion of students from state and municipal schools compared to students graduating from high school in federal schools,” he said. This prediction can only be confirmed after students actualize registration.

The university data have shown that there is no difference in the performance of cotistas and non- cotistas. “When it comes to quality, everything indicates that there is no reason for concern,” said Takahashi. The dean reiterates that increased competition for places in the largest public university in the state, resulting from Sisu, also caused an increase in competition among cotistas.

Debutants of the family

Many students entering through quotas are the first of the family to enter higher education. This applies to the student Lívia Teodoro, 24, who was approved in History, with overall average of 667.92. “I got 880 points in writing and I think this has helped me a lot.” She credits her performance to activism on the Internet, where she published texts on black feminism. She writes for the blog Na Veia da Nêga and is the coordinator-general of the Clube de Blogueiras Negras (Black Women’s Bloggers Club) of Belo Horizonte.

Lívia received all of her elementary and secondary education in public schools. “I had the opportunity to know teachers who instigated me a lot and they aroused that side that is passionate for study, however, it wasn’t enough to want to be able to absorb knowledge in a public school. It’s not easy to focus in a room with 40 students and leaky roofs on rainy days. This was the portrait of many of my school years.”

For a time the university was something distant for the young woman, who had to temporarily leave high school. “I stopped studying because of work, I got off very late and had minimal focus on studies after a full day’s work.” Lívia recognizes that, even enjoying studying, public school teaching didn’t put her on equal standing with students who studied in private schools.


“UFMG for me is a dream that I didn’t believe I could achieve. I was first place of quotas. Without quotas I wouldn’t have even tried, and not for not believing in my ability, but because of a number of factors that leave us behind those who have a whole privileged structure to ensure that they get there,” she said.

Lívia will be the first to graduate from higher education in the family, both on her father’s side and her mother’s. “My grandmother, with whom I live, is illiterate; my mother didn’t finish elementary school. Both strong and warrior women, who, as you can imagine, are thrilled to see me get into a public university.”

List of ProUni

The list with the names of the pre-selected candidates for grants from the Programa Universidade para Todos  (ProUni or University for All Program) is now available on the internet. The result of the first call can be accessed on the program page (siteprouni.mec.gov.br) at 0800-616161 and the educational institutions participating. The student must appear at the institution by February 1st for which she was preselected and verify the information provided on the registration form. Missing the deadline or failure to prove the information will automatically revoke the applicant’s approval. The program has offered 203,602 scholarships for 30,931 courses.

Word of the expert

Rodrigo Ednilson

General Coordinator of Education for Etno-racial Relations of the Ministry of Education

Quality of teaching preserved

“Analysis of the data allows us to observe a progressive increase in cutoff scores of all UFMG courses in recent years, since 2013. It is also possible to observe that the cutoff scores of quota students is invariably lower than the scores of the non-quota students; differences that vary more or less depending on the course. The reading of this data, however, should not be done dissociated from data released by the UFMG itself in 2015, which show that the performance of quota students measured by their scores, proved to be equal or superior to the scores of non- quota students throughout the course. I believe that this caveat is of fundamental importance so that we don’t return to the discourse that the entry of quota students with lower entry notes would threaten the quality of institutions of higher education.”

Source: EM

About Marques Travae 3747 Articles
Marques Travae. For more on the creator and editor of BLACK WOMEN OF BRAZIL, see the interview here.

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