Chicago State launches new program to address black, Latino wealth gap

The university’s Cougar Commitment Initiative will take a holistic approach to helping black and Latino students graduate.

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Chicago State University campus.

Chicago State University’s Cougar Commitment Initiative hopes to retain black and Latino students, increasing their graduation rates.

Sun-Times file

Chicago State University has launched new academic programs and scholarship opportunities designed to help close the African American and Latino wealth gap in Illinois.

The new Cougar Commitment Initiative will address not only the academic support new students may need but also the financial and personal challenges that may prevent some students from enrolling and later graduating.

The pilot initiative will provide microgrants, financial education, workforce preparedness training and access to food pantries. According to the school, the program will leverage the “power of higher education” to address wealth disparities between “minority and majority communities.”

“With this bold action, Chicago State University is sending the message to prospective students and families across the state and region, we are here for you,” Zaldwaynaka Scott, CSU president, said in a statement. “Current events amplify the challenges and underscore the need to address the range of obstacles that create roadblocks for students and families seeking to enroll in college and earn a college degree.”

One of the programs highlighted is the new Rise Academy, a “year-long student success initiative for freshmen.” The academy includes a five-week summer program for incoming first-year students. Students completing the summer program will receive a full-tuition scholarship for the 2020-2021 academic year. Textbooks, a laptop and internet service also is included.

“Chicago State University has always welcomed a diverse student body, with more than 60% first-generation college students,” Carlos A. Gooden, director of admissions and recruitment, said in a statement. “The multi-pronged Cougar Commitment opens the pathway to many more, introducing students to higher education while in high school, as well as providing the resources needed to support academic success once enrolled as a CSU student.”

The programs and scholarships are supported by the university’s “reallocation of current funding and gifts” from partners like The Joyce Foundation.

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