Higher Education

, Volume 75, Issue 5, pp 809–825 | Cite as

To profit or not to profit: the private higher education sector in Brazil

  • Dante J. SaltoEmail author


Brazil has by far the largest higher education system in Latin America, with a sizable share of students enrolled in private-sector institutions. Its recently established and fast-growing for-profit sector is one of the largest worldwide. The for-profit sector already surpasses the public sector in student enrollment, and its role is growing. Public policy has supported for-profit growth, ostensibly for tax revenue reasons, but the federal government has recently launched social initiatives that include tax exemption policies for the for-profit sector in exchange for need-based scholarships. Through exploratory data analysis, this study explores the role, function, and form of the for-profit sector compared with its nonprofit and public counterparts. The findings reveal that the for-profit sector shares some important characteristics with the nonprofit sector but contrasts sharply with the public sector. The study concludes that countries such as Brazil are moving toward public funding for private higher education to meet enrollment targets. These findings may be able to address issues in other countries by considering similar public policies toward private higher education.


Higher education Brazil For-profit Regulation Public policy Sectors Privatization 



The author thanks Daniel C. Levy, Simon Schwartzman, and Gilbert Valverde for their feedback on early versions of this paper. Also, the author would like to thank the anonymous reviewers for their helpful and constructive comments that greatly contributed to improving the final version of the paper. All views expressed in this article are those of the author.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Instituto de Humanidades (IDH)-Consejo Nacional de Investigaciones Científicas y Técnicas (CONICET)CórdobaArgentina
  2. 2.Universidad Nacional de CordobaCordobaArgentina
  3. 3.Research on Private Higher Education, State University of New York SUNYAlbanyUSA
  4. 4.CordobaArgentina

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