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Brazil enacts university quota law to widen access

BRASILIA -- Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff enacted legislation Wednesday that reserves half the enrollment at federal universities for students from public schools and gives priority to black, indigenous and mixed-race students.

The law was approved earlier this month by the Senate after 13 years of debate, and was enacted by the president alongside the ministers of education and racial equality, Aloizio Mercadante and Luiza Bairros, the presidential press service said.

“The legislation addresses a double challenge: first, democratizing access to universities and maintaining high quality of education,” Rousseff said.

The law requires 50 percent of seats at federal universities to go to students who completed their secondary education in public schools.

In Brazil, many wealthy families send their children to private schools, where the standard of education is often much higher.

The 50-percent quota will include a number of seats for ethnic minorities, proportional to the demographics in each state of the South American country.

Of Brazil's 59 federal universities, 32 already have limited quota systems in place.

More than half of Brazil's population of 191 million is of African origin, but recent findings show that only 2.2 percent of Afro-Brazilians currently have access to universities.

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