Mayor Rahm Emanuel wants to “reinvent” the senior year of high school so more students take college courses and hold internships that inspire them to go to college.
He also wants to help them pile up college credits during high school to help reduce skyrocketing college tuition costs.
On Friday, the mayor started delivering on his education agenda for a second term, thanks to a $500,000 contribution from the General Electric Corporation.
Starting next fall, GE’s largesse will allow Chicago Public Schools and City Colleges to more than double participation in dual credit and dual enrollment programs.
Those programs were confined to 320 students when Emanuel took office. They now have 2,481 students already and will grow to 6,100 students next year.
The expansion comes on the same day that President Barack Obama followed the lead of his former White House chief-of-staff—by offering a national version of Emanuel’s plan to offer free City Colleges tuition to CPS students who graduate with at least a 3.0 grade-point-average.
GE’s generous, three-year gift was announced at Kenwood Academy, 5015 S. Blackstone, which has more students enrolled in the dual enrollment program than any other Chicago high school.
Senior Danielle Cloud is one of them. Since junior year, she has piled up an entire semester’s worth of college credits while attending classes at Harold Washington College.
“I have taken English 101, English 102, Physical Science, Biology, Statistics and will take Introduction to Micro-Computers this upcoming semester.. Dual enrollment has also helped me get a head start on college and determining a major,” she said.
“In the fall, I am considering attending the University of Pennsylvania and Johns Hopkins University. In addition, I have received a full academic scholarship to Howard University. I will dual major in pre-medicine and psychology with hopes to be a psychiatrist.”
Emanuel said Cloud is a poster-child for the dramatic expansion.
“It’s not just the credit hours. It helped her figure out where she wanted to go to school and what she wanted to study. And she set her sights higher because of that exposure,” the mayor said Friday.
“Probably the biggest winner that’s not here are the parents because they don’t have to pay for that semester. They got it for free.”
Emanuel said the college scholarship and dual credit/dual enrollment expansion will make certain that no Chicago family “goes to the poor farm” to send their kids to college.
The decision to re-imagine senior year is a cornerstone of Emanuel’s education agenda for a second term.
In a speech this week before a handpicked group of principals, teachers and education advocates, the mayor talked about the need to think outside the box to light a fire in seniors that will keep on burning through college and beyond.
“I grew up in a home where my dad was a doctor and my mom was a nurse, but also then a political activist. That exposure at home and at the dinner table, we need to replicate. Not just my table. I would never wish that upon any child. But, we have kids who can see downtown, but can’t envision downtown,” he said.
“Just with a little exposure—whether it’s dual credit/dual enrollment, working a summer job in a company or having an internship—their sights and expectations change. I’ve seen it with a young man….who had an internship at Steppenwolf Theater and is now thinking about an arts education. The senior year [is] to get our kids ready for the next level.”
Emanuel noted that “every mayor before” him has view high school graduation as a “destination” unto itself.
“We’re going to change that model where high school graduation is a milestone on the road of education. It is not the end. It is a milestone preparing you for everything else–whether it’s community college, four-year, or your career. We’re gonna have a kindergarten-to-college strategy to make sure that every child has a chance for post-high school education,” he said.
“We have asked each of our universities—as we work certain issues through they care about on their own capital investments—that they then have a partnership with, at minimum, one school. We have asked corporations, universities, not-for-profits, foundations and our cultural entities to play a greater role. That’s why we’re talking about re-inventing and re-thinking senior year.”
Two years ago, Emanuel and City Colleges Chancellor Cheryl Hyman dramatically expanded—from six to 17 high schools–the dual-credit program that allowed high school students to earn college credits and reduce college tuition costs without leaving their high school classrooms.
That’s in addition the dual-enrollment program that has allowed CPS student to take college-level courses at Chicago’s seven City Colleges.