Starting this fall, low-income high school graduates from 12 parochial schools in Chicago will be able to receive City Colleges of Chicago’s Star Scholarship, the first expansion of the program since it was created for Chicago Public School graduates in 2014.
The expansion comes two weeks before Mayor Rahm Emanuel, who started the scholarship, steps down as mayor.
"No parent should have to take a second job or take out a second mortgage to give their child a chance at a better future, which is why we created the Star Scholarship," Emanuel said in a press release Monday. "Many experts say the greatest divide in America today is between those who have a college degree and those who don't. Here in Chicago, we have a better idea and a better bargain: Stop letting college be a divide, and let’s make it a bridge everyone has the chance to cross.”
Star Scholarship is a “last dollar” scholarship, which means the money kicks in after federal Pell Grants and Illinois’ MAP Grant to cover full tuition and books.
The Star Scholarship was originally created for CPS graduates who had a 3.0 GPA and qualifying test scores, including ACT or SAT scores, or for students who passed City Colleges’ placement exam. Students must enroll in one of City Colleges’ programs that leads to an associate degree or certificate. They have three years to complete the program before the scholarship expires.
Now, students at a dozen parochial schools that partner with the nonprofit Big Shoulders Fund will also be able to access the scholarship program. They are: Christ the King Jesuit College Preparatory School, Cristo Rey Jesuit High School, De La Salle Institute, DePaul College Prep, Hales Franciscan High School, Holy Trinity High School, Josephinum Academy of the Sacred Heart, Mount Carmel High School, Our Lady of Tepeyac High School, St. Francis de Sales High School, St. Rita of Cascia High School and Leo High School.
Students who attend these schools must be Chicago residents and also have a 3.0 GPA and pass qualifying tests to receive the scholarship. Their annual family income must be less than $50,000.
Nearly 80% of students at these schools are either African American or Latino, and more than half of the seniors qualify for free or reduced lunch.
“This new partnership allows us to expand the reach of the Star Scholarship to even more students who want to pursue a college education, but do not have the finances to do so,” said City Colleges Chancellor Juan Salgado in the release. “With each new partnership, we are helping to create a more accessible community college system that connects our communities to opportunity and creates a more inclusive Chicago economy.”
Overall, more than 6,400 students have received the scholarship since it started, and 820 scholars have transferred from City Colleges to four-year schools. According to the mayor’s office, retention rates among Star Scholars is 86%, nearly double the average student at City Colleges.
Emanuel also touts the program because it is available to undocumented students who do not receive federal or state financial aid.
City Colleges has partnered with 26 public and private four-year universities that will offer Star Scholars additional scholarships if they transfer to earn their bachelor’s degree. Just last week, Northern Illinois University became the latest transfer partner.