Emanuel and U of C move separately to ease college burdens for low-income students

Mayor Rahm Emanuel discusses the Chicago Star Scholarship at the Chicago Cultural Center
Mayor Rahm Emanuel discusses the Chicago Star Scholarship at the Chicago Cultural Center

By Julie Woon

Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel and the University of Chicago announced separate initiatives Wednesday to help low-income students break through financial barriers to higher education.

The mayor promised Chicago Public high school students a free ride to the City Colleges of Chicago if they meet certain standards, including a B average. “The bargain is if you get a 3.0 and graduate, then community college will be free,” Emanuel said at a morning press conference at the Chicago Cultural Center.

In order to qualify for the Chicago Star Scholarship, students must graduate, place into college-level math and English classes, and enroll in one of the City Colleges of Chicago’s career tracks. The scholarships will provide eligible students with money to pay for an associate degree at any of the seven City Colleges of Chicago, which include Harold Washington and Harry S. Truman colleges.

The scholarship program will be funded by capital investments from the City Colleges and supplemented by the financial aid given to students through the Pell Grant program, which already helps low-income students pay for college.

City Colleges Chancellor Cheryl Hyman estimated the cost of the program to be only about $2 million for the first year. The scholarships will pay for tuition, which runs about $89 per credit hour, fees and books. However, overall costs would depend on the student’s chosen program, she said.

Meanwhile, the University of Chicago announced that it would ease the financial burden of low-income students attending the elite university on Chicago’s South Side.

The program will replace student loans with grants in financial aid packages for low-income students and students will no longer be required to hold jobs during their first year. And the school will guarantee paid internships or research opportunities for students during the summer following their first year.

The university will continue offering its UChicago Promise program that provides high school students and counselors with application workshops.

University of Chicago President Robert J. Zimmer said he hopes the new programs will ease the financial burden on students who are accepted at the University of Chicago but cannot afford to pay its nearly $50,000 annual tuition. “We want to ensure that students of high ability can aspire to join this community without financial worry, and with comprehensive support for their success both in the College and beyond graduation,” he said in a release.