Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel on Feb. 28 touted the benefits of a new partnership with high-tech companies that will allow high school students in the city to earn free associate’s degrees, learn technology skills, and prepare for possible jobs at the firms—but he was hazy about how enrollment will be handled if the programs prove especially popular at some of the schools.
The five “early college” schools will be run by the Chicago Public Schools, but one company will help set the curriculum at each school, the mayor said.
Students who complete a six-year program that focuses on technology and career skills will graduate with a high school diploma and an associate’s degree from City Colleges of Chicago. They will be “first in line” for an interview at the company that partnered with their particular school, Emanuel said, though employment will not be guaranteed.
The five technology companies—Cisco, IBM, Microsoft, Motorola Solutions, and Verizon Wireless—will help develop a unique curriculum at each school to teach students the skills required in their respective marketplace, as well as provide mentors and internships for students. Upon graduating, the students will be prepared for careers in science and technology, the project’s leaders said.
“Preparing the next-generation of students for the workforce is a critical responsibility. Without skills in science, engineering, math, and technology, innovation cannot advance at the rate needed to sustain the economic growth we are all working to foster,” said Wim Elfrink, executive vice president for Cisco’s Emerging Solutions Group and “chief globalization officer” for the company.
City Colleges of Chicago is the first college partner for the project, but as it expands, CPS officials hope to attract additional colleges and universities for dual credit and enrollment.
Asked what will happen if there are more applicants than spots at the five schools, Emanuel said, “That’s a better problem than the one you’ve got now.”
The mayor went on to promise that political considerations—which have helped some clout-heavy students get into sought-after public school programs in Chicago in the past—will not play a part the process. But he stopped short of explaining exactly how enrollment will be decided.