March 7, 2003

Crown family initiates scholarship program

Beginning next fall, the University will sponsor five talented Chicago Public School (CPS) graduates with full-tuition renewable scholarships each year. With generous contributions from the Crown Family, the Chicago Public Schools Scholarship Program (CPSSP) will offer 20 of these scholarships over the next four years, selecting five recipients each year.

Also announced at yesterday's press conference was the new University of Chicago Collegiate Scholars Program (UCCSP), which will support between 150 and 200 CPS high school students in a year-round academic and cultural enrichment program. The first cohort of 50 high school freshmen, funded by the Crown Family, will be chosen this spring and the program will begin this summer.

"The best thing we can do for high school students is to provide some guidance and open some doorways," said James Crown, spokesman for the Crown family, at a press conference yesterday. "There is huge talent and ability [in CPS students and] we need to pave some pathways they can go down."

CPSSP is a three-year enrichment program offered to students starting the summer after ninth grade. Applicants must distinguish themselves both academically and through community contributions.

"We hope by this method to reach out and identify those young lives that we think can be transformed by the kind of education available at the University of Chicago and at other institutions," said University President Don Randel.

Although the two programs are similar, it is not required to participate in UCCSP to be considered for the CPSSP.

According to Duel Richardson, the director of University neighborhood relations who was heavily involved in planning UCCSP, the University's dedication to the scholars program is for the long-term.

"We aren't getting into this for just a few years," Richardson said. "Of course, it will undergo evaluation as it moves ahead, so that we can make it better as we move ahead."

The University expects the enrichment program to serve as a pipeline for admission and scholarships of CPS students at the country's top colleges, including the University of Chicago.

"I think this University of Chicago Collegiate Program that we are announcing today is the first of its kind in the country and will quickly become a national model," said Arne Duncan, CEO of the Chicago Public Schools. "Not every student will go to the U of C, but they will go to other elite universities in the country, and that is what we want our students to start aspiring to do."

The University will automatically consider any CPS graduate for admission with full-tuition scholarships. The graduates will complete the same Uncommon application that all other applicants submit, though CPS applications will be put into a separate pile for scholarship consideration.

There are currently 40 CPS students enrolled at Chicago, and the plan is to increase those numbers dramatically. The selection process seeks students who are not only academically qualified but offer a well-rounded breadth in their application.

"We want our students to dream big dreams, and the chance to go to U of C tuition-free will truly be a life-transforming opportunity for our students," Duncan said.

Randel estimates that the University will contribute close to $2 million to these programs, though this will depend largely on each year's group of students and their financial needs.

During the summer after ninth grade, CPS Scholars will take choose to take classes in literature, mathematics, natural sciences, social sciences, and writing.

Students will also participate in Saturday seminars during the academic year with distinguished University faculty. Students will register for free College classes to earn credit during their senior year and the summer before.

The initial faculty members guiding the collegiate program are Robert Fefferman, the Louis Block Professor of Mathematics, and Paul Sally, a mathematics professor known for his work with young people.

In addition, Herman Sinaiko, a specialist in humanities; Allen Sanderson, an expert on the economics of sports; and Melissa Harris-Lacewell, a member of the political science department, will be working with the CPS Scholars.

In addition to academics, the scholars program will also emphasize cultural enrichment.

"This is going to be a total package, not exclusively academic," Richardson said. "We hope to have a package of activities on campus that will involve experiences in the social realm and athletics so they are not feeling departmentalized in particular academic areas."

The enrichment program does not aim to replace the education in high schools but rather to serve as a complementary resource.

"This is an effort that supplements the work that goes on in the high schools and we intend to work very closely with the [high school] principals to ensure them that we are not taking their students away," Phillips said.

To better advertise the scholarship program, the admissions office is planning a spring event for CPS juniors. Brochures and applications will also be sent out to the homes of all CPS ninth graders, inviting them to apply before the April 1 deadline.

In addition to faculty members and administrators, the student body will also help support the program, supplementing current involvement in CPS.

Over 450 Chicago students work in the Neighborhood Schools Program, headed by Richardson. However, earning a teaching degree may also soon be possible for undergraduates in addition to earning a bachelor's degree.

According to Randel, the University is now developing teacher preparation programs, revising and reviving its long-standing master's program in teaching.

Chicago Vocational Career Academy Principal Ronald Beavers closed the press conference by noting that the valedictorian from last year's class at his school, James Snowden, is now proudly enrolled as a first year at Chicago as an example of the talent in CPS.

"In discussing the programs that we are talking about, I think there is one key word: the word is called opportunity," Beavers said.