The Cost of Opportunity? Higher Education in the Baixada Fluminense (2017-2018)

In Brazil, higher education enrollment has nearly tripled since 2000. A strong quota system and government financial support have revolutionized the racial and class composition in the for-profit private sector and the better-quality tuition-free public university system.

Rio de Janeiro’s poor urban periphery – known as the Baixada Fluminense – has the country’s highest concentration of young people. Located in this region, the new Multidisciplinary Institute of the Federal Rural University of Rio de Janeiro (IM/UFRRJ) is a source of hope for this racially and socially stigmatized community.

The Cost of Opportunity team began in collaboration with faculty, graduate students and undergraduates at the Multidisciplinary Institute. In 2017-18, the project team engaged in targeted field research, including a week of interviews with Ministry of Education officials in Brasília. The team organized a speakers’ series on social mobility and access to higher education in the developing world. Team members also participated in collaborative work with their Brazilian counterparts, including participating in a meeting with a delegation at the UFRRJ and helping organize a “Cost of Opportunity” conference.


Summer 2017 – Spring 2018

Team Outputs

Nova Iguaçu “Open University” Conference Sparks Continued Reflection (Riley Allen)

“Christ the Redeemer Turns His Back on Us: Urban Black Struggle in the Baixada Fluminense,” dissertation by Stephanie Reist ’18 (Ph.D. in Romance Studies)

“Last Stop Destination: Poverty, Anti-Blackness, and University Education in the Mississippi Delta and the Baixada Fluminense (Rio Lowlands) in Brazil,” honors thesis by Chloe Ricks ’18 (International Comparative Studies); winner of the International Comparative Studies Honors Thesis Prize

Cost of Opportunity 2018 Conference: Educate to Liberate, April 20, 2018

The Cost of Opportunity? Higher Education in the Baixada Fluminense (talk by Joseph Beck and Riley Allen), EHDx, April 19, 2018

The Cost of Opportunity: Revolutionizing Public Higher Education in Brazil Since 2003 (poster by Riley Allen, Eduardo Ángelo da Silva, Joe Beck, John French, Andrew Guinn, Travis Knoll, Adair Necalli, Chloe Ricks, Cesar Santos), presented at Bass Connections Showcase, April 18, 2018, and EHDx, April 19, 2018

Travis Knoll (Ph.D. Program in History), Bass Connections Follow-on Student Research Award

Open University: The Right to Higher Education, conference organized at the Universidad Federal Rural de Rio de Janeiro, March 1, 2018

Project team website

Is Lady Justice Blind? Reading Brazil’s 2012 Affirmative Action Decision through the Struggle for Gender Equality (Travis Knoll)


How Bass Connections Helped My Dissertation


Adair Necalli ’19

Travis Knoll, Ph.D. in History '21

Faculty Perspectives: John French

Chloe Ricks

Joe Beck

Mitchell Ryan

This Team in the News

Congratulations! ¡Felicidades! ¡Parabéns!

Six Ph.D. Graduates Who Leveraged Bass Connections for Their Doctoral Training

These Ph.D. Graduates Leveraged Bass Connections and Other Interdisciplinary Opportunities

Knoll Shares Story of Brazil's ‘Book Revolution’

Building an Interview Archive of Local Activism in Brazil

Team Investigates Access to Higher Education in Brazil

Collaborative Research in Brazil Delves into Higher Education, Politics and Social Justice

Higher Education Access in Brazil and the U.S.

Duke Students Awarded Certificates in International Area Studies

These Ph.D. Graduates Played Key Roles in Their Bass Connections Projects

Bass Connections Showcase Presents Research Highlights from Durham to Malaysia

The Amazon: A Natural Laboratory for the Study of the Environment, Politics and Society

Meet the 2018 Recipients of Bass Connections Follow-on Research Awards

Federal Rural University (UFRRJ) Event Discusses Higher Ed

Federal University Campus in Rio Periphery Launches Manifesto Defending Brazilian Higher Education

Evento na UFRRJ de Nova Iguaçu discute a universidade pública

Meet the Members of the 2017-18 Student Advisory Council

Exibição de documentário movimenta Colégio Estadual Bom Pastor, em Belford Roxo

2017 Latin American Film Festival Begins Oct. 1

This project team was originally part of the Education & Human Development theme of Bass Connections, which ended in 2022. See related teams, The Cost of Opportunity: Access to Higher Education in Brazil (2018-2019) and The Cost of Opportunity? Higher Education in the Baixada Fluminense (2016-2017). This project was cosponsored by the Global Brazil Humanities Lab and the Duke Brazil Initiative.

Bass Connections team members in Brazil

Team Leaders

  • Marcos De Almeida Rangel, Sanford School of Public Policy
  • John French, Arts & Sciences-History
  • Katya Wesolowski, Arts & Sciences-Cultural Anthropology

/graduate Team Members

  • Gray Kidd, History-AM, History-PHD
  • Travis Knoll, History-PHD
  • Stephanie Reist, Romance Studies-AM

/undergraduate Team Members

  • Riley Allen, Cultural Anthropology (AB)
  • Joseph Beck, Public Policy Studies (AB)
  • Adair Necalli, Linguistics (AB)
  • Chloe Ricks, Int Comparative Studies (AB)

/yfaculty/staff Team Members

  • John Victor Alencar, Franklin Humanities Institute
  • Kenneth Maffitt, Is - Latin American Studies

/zcommunity Team Members

  • Federal Rural University of Rio de Janeiro
  • Andrew Guinn, Graduate Student, UNC-Chapel Hill
  • Mitchell Ryan, UNC-Chapel Hill (Undergraduate Student)
  • Dudu de Morro Agudo, Enraizados