Paid education at USP, Unesp and Unicamp?

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By EUGENIO BUCCI*

In Brazil, the nature of gratuity is essential to consummate the public nature of our universities

On these days, the governor of São Paulo, Rodrigo Garcia (PSDB), once again defended the adoption of tuition fees for students at the University of São Paulo (USP), São Paulo State University (Unesp) and the State University of Campinas (Unicamp). ). In 2017, he had already insisted on the same thesis. Now, back to the load. According to Garcia, the charge will be necessary to finance the increase in the number of vacancies. In the interview he gave to the newspaper Economic value (3/6/2022), was categorical: “If you need public resources, you won't have them. It's over, we are at the limit of what the people can invest”.

Considering that the governor is a candidate for re-election, it is difficult to understand the attack against the gratuity of public universities in São Paulo. It's really weird. Does he think that's a vote? Or is another suicide of the São Paulo PSDB underway? Yes, a continuous suicide – it is good not to forget that, in Brazil, political parties can commit sequential, serial suicides, one after the other, this so that they are repeatedly suicidal, obsessively suicidal, so that the suicide leaves no room for doubt that it was suicide.

Self-destructive oddities aside, the fact is that the claim to establish paid education in public universities in São Paulo and Brazil is not valid. It is true that, at first glance, the idea even has an appearance of reasonableness. Common sense keeps repeating that USP only studies upper-class people. It's wrong. Common sense believes that if they are students from wealthy families, they could pay and help with university bills. Again, wrong. Apparently, just apparently, the reasoning seems to make sense, but it doesn't.

To begin with, it is not true that the student body at public universities in São Paulo comes from wealthy backgrounds. The reality is not quite like that. USP, especially, has increasingly emphatic numbers about this. No less than 51,7% of enrollments last year in undergraduate courses at USP were from people coming from public schools. Of this contingent, 44,1% were self-declared black, brown and indigenous (PPI) students. This percentage has been growing since the policy of reserving vacancies for social and racial quotas, approved by the University Council in 2017, began.

For some time now, USP's student body has not come from the so-called “elites”. The composition is changing, which has positive effects on teaching, class performance and student diversity. fields. Our public universities are free and the fact that they are free encourages the poorest to face the challenge of competing for a place.

Certainly, gratuity does not need to be mandatory in public institutions of higher education. In the United States, for example, there are public schools, such as City University of New York (Cuny), which earn with annuities. Prices are low, very low when compared to what is charged in private facilities, such as Columbia University, in the same city, but the annuity exists. In several countries we found similar solutions. We should not, therefore, treat the subject as a taboo. In other social contexts, public universities may charge (little) students. In the Brazilian case, however, the nature of gratuity is indispensable to consummate the public character of our universities. The fact that there is no monthly fee reaffirms the right to higher education for all.

Furthermore, the idea that a university that conducts research is going to pay itself with what it collects from its students is far-fetched. The account does not close, just check the spreadsheets. Tuition fees don't pay the bill for a particle accelerator or a hospital. That's not where the sustenance of the best in the world comes from. Revenue from tuition fees is negligible when compared to other collections, so much so that the most renowned schools have been making an effort to abolish tuition fees and establish a regime of “tuition-free".

Last week, USP celebrated its position number 115 in the QS Ranking, which lists the best universities in the world. USP has been improving its scores, it is the best in Brazil and has plenty of reasons to celebrate. But we should pay attention to what's happening at the top of the list. O Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), which is the first of the QS Ranking, has the objective of achieving, in some of its courses, such as architecture and urbanism studies, a full scholarship for all in 2023. Today, the scholarship policy already covers 75% of the values ​​in these and other courses.

Why that? Well, because, without charging anything, these schools find it easier to attract the best talent and, above all, do not immediately establish an internal segregation between those who can pay and those who cannot. Without annual fees, the environment improves, creativity is greater and management is simpler.

We, in the state of São Paulo, already have this formula working. It's not the time to mess with what's working. Whoever wants to lose the election or wants to commit political suicide, let him find another pretext.

* Eugene Bucci He is a professor at the School of Communications and Arts at USP. Author, among other books, of The superindustry of the imaginary (authentic).

Originally published in the newspaper The State of S. Paul.

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