Through sweeping changes at the City Colleges of Chicago (CCC), including linking course work to jobs in fast- growing industries, the graduation rate has doubled from 7 percent and is on track to triple by the end of 2018. I am focused on helping more Chicago students get to college and ensure that we are also preparing them for good-paying jobs and careers. To make sure that CPS students can take advantage of this progress, we have started the Chicago STAR Scholarship – offering free college tuition to any public school student who graduates with a B average or better, including undocumented students. We are also building upon our growing dual credit/dual enrollment program, which provides students with opportunities to earn City Colleges credit while still in high school, by increasing the number of high school seniors from roughly 300 students in 2011 to more than 6000 in 2016. We will also continue to seek out new opportunities with four-year universities, such as the recently announced partnership between Von Steuben High School and the Illinois
Institute of Technology.
Students are more likely to do well in school and transfer to four-year universities if they have a strong support system inside the institution. Students must have knowledgeable and encouraging academic advisors, knowledgeable professors and thoughtful mentors to succeed. Advisors need to build relationships with students to better formulate academic plans, counsel major selection, and prepare students for to transitioning to four-year universities. Encouraging students to participate in school organizations will increase their leadership, communication and interpersonal relationship skills. Holding professors and advisors accountable by conducting anonymous and constructive surveys is key to long-term improvement. City College must also have efficient, bilingual tutors, writing and math centers, and proper mental help assistance for students.
I am committed to improving the graduation rates of youth from pre-school to graduate school. However, the City Colleges present a unique set of challenges. I am concerned with the lack of Latino(a) representation in the administration in Colleges. Even in the identified “Hispanic Serving Institutions,” the personnel are not representative of the student body, and that should be changed. In addition, we need to provide student support services for academic deficiencies that affect the student population. If the students are predominantly Latino, support services that are specific to that population should be provided. All students are in need of special academic components that lead them to successful outcomes (i.e., tutoring, counseling, specialized programs) but the job market has specific, identified shortages such as lack of bilingual personnel in healthcare. We should develop programming to prepare students to meet this need. Communities with the lowest graduation rates must receive special attention and resources to correct this inequity. Education experts have a wealth of evidence about programs that work, including those that work specifically with immigrant and undocumented students. I would also work to remove artificial barriers that hamper the success of students without documents.
We will enhance the City Colleges ESL programs. Additionally, we will include classes which focus on Latino history, culture and heritage. We will make certain that there are Latinos on the City Colleges Board of Trustees. All members of the Board will be directed to exhibit sensitivity to the special needs of Latino student. We will liaison with four colleges and universities to advocate for the admission of Latino graduates and associate degree earners.
Partnerships with four-year universities is key to successful transfers for all students. It is imperative that graduation and transitions to other universities be promoted and marketed to Latino students. I would encourage City Colleges to focus their marketing and promotion events in a targeted fashion so that Latino students are properly informed and motivated.