Harry S. Truman, a City College (Credit: Flickr/Daniel X. O'Neil)
Harry S. Truman, a City College (Credit: Flickr/Daniel X. O’Neil)

The path to college may have gotten a little clearer for Chicago Public School students.

On Tuesday, Mayor Emanuel and City Colleges of Chicago Chancellor Cheryl Hyman announced that six local universities–Loyola University, DePaul University, Governors State University, Illinois Institute of Technology, National Louis University, and Roosevelt University–will join UIC in participating in the CPS Star Scholars program. It’s one more step toward clearing the route to higher education for students at City Colleges, which is recovering from a dismal 7 percent graduation rate.

The Star Scholars program, which was first announced last October, gives free tuition to any of the seven City Colleges to Chicago Public School students who maintain a B average, place in college level math and english, and take a “Guided Pathways” course. This August, the city announced UIC was joining the program by providing $5,000 per year scholarships to Stars Scholars who graduate from City Colleges to continue onto receive a four year education. Now six more schools are joining the program, creating what the city is calling the “Chicago Star Partnership.”

The initiative is designed to bolster the pipeline of local students to the local economy.

“Having a college education should always be determined by a student’s willingness to work, not their ability to pay, so with the support of our partners at Chicago’s top universities, we are giving our students a clear pathway from high school to four-year degree,” said Mayor Emanuel in a statement. “The Chicago Star Partnership will help ensure that our hard-working graduates remain in Chicago for college, and continue to contribute their talents and skills to our growing economy and communities.”

There wasn’t further information as to what type of financial contribution the additional six colleges will provide, but the UIC program could provide a bit of insight. Students in the program who graduate from City Colleges with at least a B average can be automatically enrolled at UIC and receive $5,000 per year for two years. That money is separate from other grants and aid, and UIC committed to admitting up to 250 students per year, according to DNA Info.

Though that accounts for about a third of UIC’s yearly tuition, it’s a fraction of private universities such as Loyola and DePaul.

However, officials say providing some sort of assistance can go a long way in providing incentives to students of all backgrounds.

“I am proud to see Chicago’s great four-year universities collaborating to ensure outstanding Chicago public high school students can pursue a college degree regardless of their financial circumstances,” said City Colleges Board Chair Charles Middleton in the statement. “Through the Mayor’s vision, our high schools, community colleges, and four year universities are creating a seamless pipeline for Chicagoans from the classroom to careers.”

CPS and City Colleges, the flagship public school system and community colleges of Chicago, have both struggled to get students to college graduation day. A UChicago study found that only 14 percent of CPS high school freshman will graduate a four-year college in six years, and in 2010 City Colleges’ graduation rate had dipped to 7 percent.

However, at the event on Tuesday, Hyman announced that City Colleges had reached a record graduation rate of 17 percent, which they hope continues to grow.

“In order to secure a family-sustaining career in today’s economy, a post-secondary credential is needed, and in many cases, that credential is a bachelor’s degree,” she said in a statement. “The Chicago Star Partnership offers our high-achieving high school students a way to earn an associate’s and bachelor’s degree, saving tens of thousands of dollars along the way.”

This isn’t the only news for local students looking for a clearer pathway to higher ed. This year Loyola is launching Arrupe College, a largely tuition-free community college that allows students to transfer to nearly any four year university in the state of Illinois.

Image credit: Flickr/Daniel X O’Neil