The disparity between graduation rates for student athletes at big-time college athletic programs and the students at those schools who watch the games has been a controversial aspect of college athletics for some time.
However, when it comes to City Colleges of Chicago, it’s not just the players -- the fans aren’t graduating either.
While Olive-Harvey College’s men’s basketball team won 72 percent of its games in the 2014-2015 season, the students who entered the college’s two-year program in 2013 were less successful. Of this group of 1,733 students, not one graduated on time.
Olive-Harvey College, located at 10001 South Woodlawn Avenue in southeast Chicago, serves more than 10,000 students annually in their pursuit of a certificate, degree, GED or learning English as a second language. Most of these programs are designed to be completed in two years, but the U.S. Department of Education said the college has a zero percent graduation rate within that time frame.
According to City Colleges of Chicago Chancellor Cheryl Hyman, the graduation rate is more accurately “calculated using a formula set by the federal government that covers only first-time, full-time students who complete a degree or certificate program within 150 percent of the program’s length.” But allowing three years instead of two for a two-year associate’s degree still results in a graduation rate of only 11 percent for Olive-Harvey.
The City Colleges of Chicago is composed of seven institutions and has a budget of over half a billion dollars, but the Illinois State Board of Education said none of its schools had an on-time graduation rate exceeding 18 percent for 2015.
The “Fiscal year 2017 Annual Operating Budget” published by City Colleges of Chicago cites a budget of $523.7 million, of which more than $185 million is realized from state and local tax revenue, including local property taxes, which have increased dramatically in recent years. The 2016 property tax levy for the city-college system is projected to exceed $62 million.
Hyman, whose 2015 compensation was reported by the Better Government Association to be in excess of $300,000, said the system’s “College to Careers” initiative “has helped more than 4,000 students find a job or a paid internship” since 2013. Hyman said “more than 150 corporate and four-year college partners are working with us to redesign curricula, facilities and to offer our students access to real-world learning opportunities, jobs and internships.”
Olive-Harvey’s men’s basketball team’s prospects aren’t as rosy, but while its current season is off to a disappointing start, with only three wins in eight games, that 38 percent success rate is still more than three times that of the student body.
Organizations in this story
City Colleges of Chicago 226 W Jackson Blvd Chicago, IL 60606
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