DePaul University is partnering with Harold Washington College, a local two-year college within the City Colleges of Chicago, to create a more affordable path for Chicago Public Schools students to ultimately graduate from the university, officials from both schools announced on Tuesday.
The City Colleges of Chicago Board is expected to approve the program this week, opening the door for up to 100 higher achieving students to enroll next fall. It’s open to students interested in DePaul, but who may not be qualified yet or who are unable to pay four years of private college tuition.
“There are students that we work with who, sometimes, they aren’t ready to commit to a four-year, private university lifestyle,” said Ignacio Lopez, president at Harold Washington. But Lopez said for many students, earning a bachelor’s degree is the ultimate goal.
Partnerships between two- and four-year are growing increasingly popular as college becomes increasingly unaffordable, especially for lower-income students, and universities compete from a smaller pot of college-age students. But this blended model is unique.
To apply for the Harold Washington-DePaul program, students must also be eligible for City College’s Star Scholarship program, which covers full tuition for CPS students with a 3.0 GPA and a minimum ACT score of 17. Last year, the average freshman at DePaul had a 3.6 GPA and average 25 ACT composite.
Unlike traditional transfer partnerships between two and four-year schools, students in the DePaul Harold Washington Academy will take classes taught by Harold Washington College faculty, but located at DePaul’s downtown Chicago campus. Students can use DePaul resources like the student library, career counseling, and the gym. They can also join DePaul student clubs while also accessing services offered at Harold Washington.
“They get the luxury of having both sets of services,” Lopez said.
Students will get automatic admission to DePaul if they graduate from Harold Washington with an associate’s degree.
“We like to think about college as something that someone goes to four years of high school, applies, and goes to four years of a college they choose,” said Jon Boeckenstedt, an associate vice president at DePaul. “Most students don’t follow that path. … They’re just not sure what college is like, if it’s right for them. They haven’t had people telling them their whole life that they’re going to college. So, this is a great opportunity to build confidence, to build experience, and to get comfortable with the four-year college experience before you actually enroll at a four-year college.”
DePaul’s admissions have remained steady, but Boeckenstedt said “it’s nice to have 100 new transfers at the end of two years who are already set and focused on DePaul and who, more importantly, have taken the right courses and done everything necessary to seamlessly transfer into the university.”
The City Colleges Board is expected to approve the partnership on Thursday. Students who are considered for the program will be notified in the spring and can decide then if they want to participate.