In a few short months West Englewood native Alisha Tuff will be transferring from Kennedy King College with one degree in pursuit of another free-of-charge thanks to the Chicago Star Scholarship of City Colleges of Chicago.
Launched only a couple of years ago by Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, the Chicago Star Scholarship offers students who graduated from a Chicago Public School with a 3.0 GPA and test well in math and reading tests an opportunity to earn an associate degree at a City of Chicago college for free including tuition and books.
Tuff, 20, a graduate of Chicago Bulls College Prep, is
a Phi Beta Kappa honors society student who intends to major in physical science at Lindenwood University when she transfers. She said her goal is to work in professional sports to help rehabilitate injured athletes.
To say Tuff has had an eventful start to her academic career would be an understatement. She said she’s attended several colleges in the past where one was too far away from home and another in Missouri was forced to close its doors before she returned home to attend KKC. Proximity played a role in Tuff’s decision to attend KKC as it was close to her home, she said. Additionally, she said the professors she spoke to seemed more engaged with her academic success than those at other institutions. She has since become an advocate for some students to attended community college first before heading to a four year university.
“Going to a community college in my opinion helps you prepare for a four year university,” she said. “I think some people shouldn’t jump into a four year university not knowing how to handle themselves and then end up dropping out of school.”
Tuff said she plans to visit Lindenwood’s campus in the near future. She said the school’s administration, distance from home, and success rate among alumni moving forward in the physical science field made all the difference.
Finances played a role in Tuff’s decision to attend a City Colleges of Chicago institution. She said her mother, a single parent, is already her older sister, 22, with her education.
“Me having the ability to do well in school, work hard, push myself has taken the burden off of my mother of trying to pay for two kids in school at the same time,” said Tuff.
The current administration in place at Kennedy King College believes that it is offering prospective students a great opportunity for an education with an enviable price tag.
Craig Lynch, interim president at KKC, said part of the enrollment process to the college includes a discovery conversation about what a prospective student’s intentions are in order to determine the best route forward.
“If their goal is to transfer we want to start to help them make smart choices about the courses they need to take to achieve their degree goals and then we make sure that they get to the transfer center so they can understand what it takes to successfully matriculate into those four year opportunities,” said Lynch.
Kenyon Douglass, director of Transfer Services at KKC, expressed her confidence in the quality of education KKC especially when factoring in the cost of attending local schools within the Chicagoland area. She called CCC “trail blazers” for not just partnering with DePaul University, Loyola University, Northwestern University but with universities beyond the Chicago, Illinois or even Midwest markets and for making sure students stay on track to adhere to the guidelines necessary to eventually transfer.
“Many parents may have income that they can afford a Roosevelt University and pay the $32,000 but if a student came to City Colleges and had that 3.0 GPA they’re able to receive their education here for free which means they’re cutting the cost of their bachelor’s degree by 50 percent,” said Douglass. “I have to reiterate coming to City Colleges, any of our City Colleges, allows students to still receive a quality education.”
Douglass said students have three resources at their disposal to ensure a smooth transfer process including herself along with the staff at the transfer center, a student’s academic advisor, and the transfer specialist at the prospective school. She said some KKC students visit their prospective schools on Spring Break to get a feel for where they will be heading.
“We’re trying to make sure that students are making the best informed decisions in regards to the courses that they are taking but also have the wrap around services in regards to having a contact person there,” said Douglass.
More than 40 percent of KKC students that earn their bachelor degree transfer to a four year university, according to Douglass.
KKC is helping to facilitate students’ transfer goals. During the month of November the transfer center will be giving 10 minute in-class presentations, said Douglass. She said too that universities partners like Governors State University work one-on-one with prospective transfers on a weekly basis. She said some schools bring their admissions teams and offer on-the-spot admissions to their university.
To learn more about the Chicago Star Scholarship visit http://www.ccc.edu/departments/Pages/chicago-star-scholarship.aspx.
To learn more about City Colleges of Chicago’s transfer program visit http://www.ccc.edu/departments/Pages/Transfer-Resources.aspx.