Reading ‘Brazillionaires’ and Thinking About a Brazil Strategy

A great book to generate campus discussion about the country of the future.

August 18, 2016

Brazillionaires: Wealth, Power, Decadence, and Hope in an American Country by Alex Cuadros

Published in July of 2016.

What is your school’s Brazil strategy?

As you watch the Olympics, are you thinking about how you will recruit students from Brazil to study at your institution?

Maybe you are trying to get a conversation going on your campus about Brazil.  About how the demographics and economy of Brazil will mean that this country will become increasingly important as a sender of students to U.S. colleges and universities.

One strategy you might want to use to catalyze this conversation is send everyone a copy of Alex Cuadros’ wonderful book Brazillionaires.  Folks will think that they are reading an about the insanely fascinating lives of Brazil’s .01 percent - which they will.  Brazillionaires is most definitely a book about the country’s billionaires - how they got their money and how they spend their money.  The life of billionaires is a terrific lens into the culture, history, and economy of Brazil.

Come to read about the business empires and lavish lifestyles of Brazil’s richest citizens - leave with an understanding of why Brazil should loom large on the radar of every U.S. college and university.

Cuadros, who began his career in Brazil as a reporter for Bloomberg News, excels at making Brazil make sense to outsiders.  During his time in Brazil, Cuadros witnessed both the great wealth acceleration and unbridled optimism of the Lula years (2003 to 2011), and the subsequent recession and political scandals that dominate Brazilian life up until today.

This story is largely told through the rise and fall of Eike Batista, once the world’s 8th richest man who subsequently went bankrupt, and his body-building son Thor.  How Eike got rich and went broke, and how his son got away with killing a poor worker with a Mercedes-Benz SLR McLaren, provides a starting point for a larger narrative about the roots and dangers of extreme wealth and economic stratification.

There is no doubt that interest in Brazil on your campus will be running high about now.  The Olympics are taking care of driving that curiosity about Brazil.  You can use Brazillionaires - if you are willing to pass the book out to key folks at your school - to start a discussion about the Brazil strategy that you should adopt.

Some facts about Brazil to ponder:

In the U.S. there are about 42.6 million people age 10 to 19.  (Our staring and next cohort of college students).  In Brazil, the comparable number is about 34 million.

Brazil has a huge college age and future college age population, but is challenged to provide a quality undergraduate and graduate education to all who will want one. While Brazil has some excellent universities - such as the University of São Paulo (143 on the QS World University Ranking) - many of the country’s rising professional class will be looking to study abroad.

Brazil has approximately 2,400 institutions of higher education.  Attendance at the top public universities is free, but incredibly competitive to secure admission.  Three quarters of Brazilian postsecondary institutions are private - with many of these schools being for-profit.  (I’ve seen estimates that from one-third to one-half of Brazil’s postsecondary students are enrolled in for-profits - largely in lower cost programs).

Today, there are about 24,000 Brazilian students studying in U.S. colleges and universities.  That is an almost 80 percent increase from previous years - and there is huge headroom for these numbers to increase.

Just getting a handle on the current Brazilian postsecondary system, and why that system can’t possibly serve the demand for quality undergraduate and graduate training, will motivate your colleagues to amp up their outreach and recruitment in Brazil.

Some other quick Brazil superlatives - interesting facts not directly related to higher education - but illustrative of the potential of the country to play a major role as an exporter of students.

Did you know that Brazilian companies now own Kraft, Heinz, Burger King, and Anheuser-Busch? 

Brazil, a country of 205 million people, is actually larger than the contiguous United States? 

Brazil is the world’s largest producer of coffee, sugar cane, and oranges.  Brazil is the world’s second largest producer of soybeans, beef, and tobacco.  And is amongst the top world producers of corn (3rd), pineapples (3rd), lemons (5th), watermelons (4th), milk (4th), beer (3rd), timber (4th) and oil (9th).

Are you also obsessed with Brazil?

What are you reading?



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