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.
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