EAST VILLAGE — More Chicago Public Schools graduates will be able to go to college, thanks to a Robert Morris University scholarship announced Tuesday.
"We want to make sure that every student in Chicago Public Schools has a plan [after high school]," Mayor Rahm Emanuel said in making the announcement at Wells Community Academy High School, 936 N. Ashland Ave.
He said the scholarships "will help young men and women of color to be able to go to Robert Morris College and come out debt-free."
Led by a $1.2 million gift from the Michael Alter family, the New Era Scholarship will provide $5,000 in annual tuition assistance at Morris, which charges $26,000 per year before a school-sponsored grant and state and federal aid are applied.
With the Alter family's donation, 40 students are already funded for the first wave of New Era scholarships spanning four years from 2018 to 2022. Michael Alter is a developer and owner of the WNBA Chicago Sky.
With the additional support of private donors, it is hoped that the newly created scholarship will assist 100 students annually over the next three years, a news release stated.
Robert Morris University chose to announce its new scholarship for all CPS students at Wells Community Academy High School, as an augmentation to an expanding dual college credit program that started last year at Steinmetz High School and will now allow Wells students to take college-level courses and earn college credit at Robert Morris.
Wells senior Anthony Toler, who plans to study business at Robert Morris next year, called the scholarship "a huge help."
The dual college credit program is another step toward a goal that by 2019, 50 percent of all CPS graduates have college credit under their belt, Emanuel said.
"The biggest thing is [students who have college credit] conquer their fear of their capacity to handle college," Emanuel said.
In a written statement, Alter said that Robert Morris "has consistently demonstrated that it can successfully educate and graduate low-income, first-generation students of color and place them on a successful career path through their innovative program of workplace experience and corporate partnerships."
Alter added, "For $5,000 per student per year, there could not be a more impactful way for nonprofits and philanthropists to create lasting change in our community.”
Robert Morris said 78 percent of students pursuing a bachelor's degree graduate, 90 percent of them within four years.
The 2017 CPS graduating class received a record high $1.24 billion in scholarship offers, $80 million more than in 2016, CPS said.