Reinvention-The Right Path For City Colleges
October 29, 2012 09:39 AM
Crain’s Chicago Business editorial praises Reinvention Plan.
Crain’s Chicago Business applauded the City Colleges of Chicago Reinvention Plan in an editorial published October 29, 2012. Reinvention, an initiative the Joyce Foundation Employment Program supported, reimagines the city’s community college system to better prepare students to graduate and earn credentials, so they can continue their education and acquire skills that are in demand from local employers. Read the full editorial below.
Editorial: 'Reinvention' the right path for City Colleges
October 29, 2012
The University of Chicago and Northwestern University are amply endowed. They've got picturesque campuses, famous faculty and fabulous alumni networks. But when it comes to higher education, the future of the city's economy depends far more on the success of ugly duckling City Colleges of Chicago.
That's why we applaud the “Reinvention” program introduced by Chancellor Cheryl Hyman and vociferously championed by Mayor Rahm Emanuel. They are creating specialized job-training programs at most of the system's colleges in which local employers help design the curriculum. The goal: more graduates earning a credential that has real economic value.
Programs are already under way at Malcolm X (health care), Olive-Harvey (transportation and logistics) and Harold Washington (professional services and entrepreneurship). Last week, City Colleges announced plans for programs at Wilbur Wright (information technology), Richard J. Daley (manufacturing) and Kennedy-King (hospitality). These subjects weren't picked for giggles: They're the pillars of the regional economy.
As detailed in a Crain's special report last week, City Colleges for too many years has been an underperforming bookend to the city's woeful public school system. The scandalous graduation rate—11 percent—is actually an improvement over past years. Poor and minority students, in particular, struggle to finish. And with 117,000 students—twice the undergraduate enrollment of the area's five biggest universities combined—the weaknesses at City Colleges affect the entire region.
It's not the fault of the students. They demonstrate their ambition by enrolling. But they are handicapped by the failures of Chicago Public Schools. Ninety percent of entering students need remedial work, almost twice the national average. The fanciest laboratories can't compensate for students who have difficulty reading.
The reinvention process has its critics, of course. Faculty fear that the emphasis on jobs comes at the expense of students interested in more academic pursuits. Spending is increasing on a central bureaucracy, too.
Still, we believe City Colleges is headed in the right direction. And it must succeed. These schools are the modern equivalent of the steel mills and factories of the last century, which helped generations of families get a leg up in life. Without an affordable higher education system that successfully prepares poor and working-class Chicagoans for gainful employment, there is no path to the middle class. And that's a future that is unacceptable.