Feb 22, 2022 - Politics & Policy

Thousands of Chicago students and their parents to get full college scholarships

Illustration of a graduation cap but the tassel is a ladder.

Illustration: Maura Losch/Axios

Thousands of Chicago students — plus their parents — will have a better shot at graduating from college with a full-ride scholarship program announced at five public schools on Tuesday.

The big picture: The program will give mostly Black and Latino students scholarships starting in the fall semester.

Why it matters: Fear of incurring unpayable debt deters many students of color from going to college, studies show.

  • U.S. Department of Education data also shows Latinos have lower college completion rates than white non-Hispanics.
  • Latino and Black graduates who take out college loans are saddled with that debt much longer than their peers, according to Federal Reserve data.

Details: The scholarships are from Hope Chicago, a private group that promises to cover full tuition and room and board at partner universities, as well as books, a laptop and stipends for costs like transportation.

  • Hope Chicago will also give all beneficiaries career guidance and counseling so “the student not only gets to but through college.”
  • The funding comes from donations and the group’s co-founder Pete Kadens, a businessman and philanthropist.

The intrigue: Hope Chicago’s program doesn't just offer scholarships to students — it'll also give funds to one parent to enroll in a two- or four-year program or in a trade certification curriculum.

  • The idea is to make education attainable across multiple generations in order “to foster equity.”
  • Hope Chicago is looking to raise $1 billion dollars to ensure the program keeps going for at least the next decade.

Benito Juárez Community Academy is one of five Chicago schools chosen for the program.

  • 94% of its roughly 1,700 students are Latino. Most are from low-income families.
  • "There’s so much talent and effort in this community, but this opportunity of financial support was what had been missing to allow and motivate the students to continue their educational path,” the school’s principal, Juan Carlos Ocon, told Axios Latino.
  • Ocon said 60% of the 400 departing seniors already have early decision admittance and that, based on averages from past years, at least 95% will be admitted to a four year college.
  • “In these past weeks, many parents had expressed their concerns about affording this for their kids. With this news, that worry is no more. I hope this joy reverberates across Chicago.”

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