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City Colleges’ Future Ready initiative to offer 60 career training programs this fall — for free

Up to 3,000 students can enroll in the new federally funded programs on a first-come, first-served basis.

Harry S Truman College, one of the City Colleges of Chicago in Uptown.
Harry S Truman College, one of the City Colleges of Chicago in Uptown.
Tyler LaRiviere/Sun-Times

City Colleges of Chicago plans to aid adult learners this fall with Future Ready, a new initiative featuring 60 career training programs that will be made available to students at no cost.

The new programs were scheduled to be announced Thursday and cover subjects ranging from health care to cannabis operations to criminal justice to auto mechanics. The programs will be offered either in-person or online and range in length from one day to three semesters.

Students can earn one college credential, or basic or advanced certifications from the classes, that can range in length from one day to three semesters.

The initiative has the potential to enroll up to 3,000 students for the upcoming semester, said Mark Potter, City Colleges provost.

“The vision is that the Future Ready program can enable students to complete the program that they opt into debt free,” Potter said. “If individuals see programs that align with their career path, they can apply to any one of the City Colleges and then enroll in the relevant classes for free. As long as they remain enrolled in the program, the classes will remain free.”

The program is funded by the federal Higher Education Emergency Relief Fund.

Other than the overall cap on students, there’s no limit on how many people can enroll in a particular program, although students will be accepted on a first-come, first-served basis.

Chicago students who apply for fall enrollment at one of the City Colleges and complete their federal financial aid forms are eligible. Based on how many students take part this semester, City Colleges will determine if the program can be offered to new students in the spring.

“We expect this to have a positive impact on fall enrollment, but we are not doing this to boost enrollment,” Potter said. “We are doing this because we see ourselves as a resource to Chicagoans and want to eliminate barriers to employment. With Future Ready, we are able to grant access to higher education in a way that contributes to the city’s workforce directly.”

Students enrolled in Future Ready will also be eligible for the Fresh Start program, which forgives prior student debt with City Colleges, helping former students to re-enroll at the school. Half the debt is forgiven when students complete their first semester and the remaining 50% when students complete their program of study.

More information is at