DePaul University partners with city to provide college opportunities for underserved

By Michelle Martin | Staff writer
Thursday, December 20, 2018

Students hoping to be members of DePaul University’s class of 2023 could get some help with new enrollment initiatives aimed at attracting local students.

The school joined with City Colleges of Chicago and the City of Chicago to announce the creation of the Harold Washington Academy Dec. 4.

The academy is a partnership that will allow up to 100 Chicago Public School graduates to attend Harold Washington College classes with Harold Washington faculty on DePaul’s Loop campus. The students, who would have to complete an application to DePaul, will be allowed to use DePaul facilities and resources and join DePaul student groups. They also will be guaranteed admission to DePaul University as juniors if they complete their associate degrees in two years.

Jon Boeckenstedt, DePaul’s associate vice president for enrollment management, said the academy directly addresses DePaul’s commitment to serve students who don’t come from a long line of college graduates.

“DePaul has explicitly included in our mission statement our commitment to first-generation students, to low-income students and to students of color,” Boeckenstedt said. “You will find a lot of students who fall into one of those categories in CPS.”

To qualify, students must be eligible for City Colleges “Star Student” status, which means they graduated from a CPS high school with a cumulative grade point average of at least 3.0 and test as completion-ready in math and English. They can attend City Colleges tuition-free for three years.

Boeckenstedt said that Harold Washington Academy is an effort to enroll students who otherwise might miss the cut to enter DePaul as freshmen, but, especially with two years’ worth of college classes under their belts, will be able to succeed and thrive.

“Our applications have continued to grow,” Boeckenstedt said. “The students who are most likely to be not admitted are the ones who look like they aren’t the best risks, at least not on paper.”

Many of them are first-generation Americans and don’t come from families that were planning for their college careers since they started kindergarten, he said. The program will integrate them into the DePaul community while they attend Harold Washington classes at no cost to them.

The students will be eligible for the same federal and state financial aid programs that all DePaul students are eligible for if they choose to transfer as juniors, Boeckenstedt said, and the university would be open to creating dedicated scholarships if donors come forward to fund them.

While the goal for the first year is 100 students, Boeckenstedt said it can easily be expanded or made smaller in subsequent years based on demand.

“The creation of DePaul Harold Washington Academy is the result of a belief that Chicago Public School Star Scholars who excelled in high school should be able to access high quality higher education at an affordable price,” said A. Gabriel Esteban, president of DePaul.

“This initiative — along with the recently announced DePaul Chicago Pro-
mise and Catholic Heritage scholarships — continues our longstanding commitment to Chicago Public Schools and the City of Chicago. We are proud to offer our facilities and resources to Harold Washington College and believe the academy will help serve students higher education might otherwise overlook,” Esteban said.

High-achieving CPS graduates and Illinois Catholic high school graduates can take advantage of the new Chicago Promise and Heritage scholarships.

Those programs offer $20,000 per year scholarships for students who graduate high school with a GPA of at least 3.7 and are admitted to the university as full-time freshmen. The scholarships are renewable for four years as long as the students remain in good academic standing.

The scholarships are an effort to make the cost of attending DePaul comparable to the cost for high-achieving Illinois students to attend a flagship public university in another state.

Catholic high school graduates can be an especially good fit because they already have a grounding in the Catholic social teaching that undergirds DePaul’s social justice mission, Boeckenstedt said.

“It’s not just about the students,” he said. “It’s about making the world a better place for all people.”

As the largest Catholic university in the United States and the largest private, nonprofit university in the Midwest, DePaul is a special destination for the graduates of the 77 Catholic high schools in Illinois. Last year, 174 new freshmen enrolled at DePaul each year after graduating from one of these schools.

“DePaul University has a rich history rooted in providing a superior Catholic education and contributing to the city’s vibrancy,” Cardinal Cupich said in a statement. “Through this new scholarship program, DePaul University is opening the door for more Illinois Catholic high school students to experience what a Catholic university has to offer, and in turn those students will help shape the future of Chicago and the world beyond.”



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