For some graduating high school seniors, the hard part isn’t so much getting into college.
For those who come from lower-income families and who may not have parents who went to college, it’s finding a way to pay for school, and, once enrolled, finding their way to graduation. Community colleges in Illinois, for example, see only about one in five full-time students finish a two-year degree in three years.
Loyola University Chicago, a private, four-year university with annual tuition topping $39,000 for freshmen who enter next fall, might not seem the best institution for them. But a new two-year program offered by the university at its River North campus seeks to change that.
Arrupe College will welcome its first freshman class this summer. To be admitted, students must have income levels that would qualify for both federal Pell grants and Illinois MAP grants; with that funding in place, and some help from the university, they will graduate in two years with associates' degrees with an expected $1,700 a year contribution from them or their families and no student debt.
What they will have is two years’ worth of credits that will transfer to about 100 Illinois colleges and universities, experience in handling a college curriculum and, administrators hope, some money saved from part-time jobs.
That’s exactly what Andre Farina is hoping for. Farina, 18, applied to Arrupe College after learning about it on Loyola’s Facebook page, he said.
Farina, a senior at Christ the King Jesuit College Prep High School, 5088 W. Jackson Blvd., said he attended a summer program at Loyola University Chicago in 2014 and liked the school. When he applied to the four-year program, he was admitted, but the financial aid package he was offered was not enough for his family to afford to send him.
“What appealed to me is that it was a more affordable way to get a Jesuit education,” said Farina, who went to elementary school at St. Frances of Rome in Cicero. “My whole life I’ve been in Catholic school.” He credits that supportive environment with helping him become the student he is now.
The structure of Arrupe College will help many students adjust to college, said Chanita Schwartz, Christ the King’s college counselor.
“For students new to college, the first year is the hardest year,” she said. “We feel that Arrupe will help students build a solid foundation.”
It will do that by organizing students into cohorts that will move through the program together, said Jesuit Father Stephen Katsouros, Arrupe’s chief executive officer. Students can choose one of three associate’s degrees — in arts and humanities, business or social and behavioral sciences — and they will have all of their classes in a three-hour morning or afternoon block each day. They also will have time to meet with an academic counselor and a social worker, and get help finding jobs through the connections the school is building with businesses on or near the Magnificent Mile. That will make it easier for students, who can travel from home to school and then stay in the neighborhood to work, Katsouros said.
Classes will be taught by dedicated Arrupe College faculty and will follow a yearround schedule, with short breaks between the five eight-week academic blocks, to minimize the opportunities for students to fall away from the program, Katsouros said.
Overall, Katsouros expects the program to cost about $12,500 per year per student for 400 students, with much of the funding coming from state and federal grants. It only works, he said, because the university is not counting any of the ancillary costs: the program will fit into Maguire Hall, 1. E. Pearson St., when the Quinlan School of Business moves into its new building this summer, and the university already has a library, security department, information technology and other services
“Loyola saw an opportunity here and decided to take it,” Katsouros said.
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