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More CPS students will soon be able to take City Colleges courses

Andre Ellis, 17, poses for a photograph at his home Sunday, Nov. 13, 2011, in Chicago. Ellis is taking an English composition class at Herald Washington College for college credit. | John J. Kim~Sun-Times

Starting in January, more Chicago Public High School students will be able to take classes at City Colleges – for free.

Every semester for the past few years, each of the city’s seven community colleges have enrolled about 50 high school students in college-level courses. Starting next year, that number will double to 100 per college, officials announced Sunday.

Over three semesters – including summer – that means there will be 2,100 spots for CPS students to attend a college class while still going to high school.

“It’s a good experience – it’s challenging,” said Andre Ellis, 17, a junior at Ogden High School who is currently taking an English composition class at Harold Washington College.

Is he learning more than he would in high school?

“I’m learning how to formulate a really good essay,” Ellis said. “Process essays, cause-and-effect essays – all sorts of essays, really.”

The college kids in the class are very respectful of the 10 high school students in the class, he said.

Ellis hopes to study architecture at an Ivy League school after he graduates from high school.

If all goes well, he and the other students can transfer the credit from these college classes to wherever they go to college, giving them a head start and saving them tuition costs.

To qualify, high school juniors and seniors must have a 2.5 grade-point average, a 90 percent attendance rate and score at least a 19 in reading on the ACT or a 21 in math.