Since the start of the pandemic, Illinois community college enrollment has fallen to its lowest level in years, and now one school is scrambling to keep students on track to graduate.

City Colleges of Chicago has already launched two major initiatives to bring back people who may have dropped out of college during the pandemic, or to keep people who are considering leaving in school.

Veronica Herrero, chief of staff and strategy for schools, explained that the Fresh Start program cancels the debts of returning students and the Future Ready initiative offers free education for high-demand fields.

“We want to make sure that those students, especially if they’re doing well and want to finish, that we’re making completion accessible and possible for them,” Herrero noted.

According to the Illinois Community College Board, community college enrollment in the state has fallen from more than 271,000 in 2019 to about 230,000 in 2021, a decline likely partly attributable to the COVID-19 pandemic.

In addition to new programs, which are largely designed for current or former students, City Colleges is working to attract students who graduate from Chicago public schools in 2020 and 2021 but have not enrolled in education. superior.

Herrero pointed out that the efforts include financial support, free laptops, Wi-Fi connectivity for virtual education and extra school help.

“You know, we’re doing everything we can to get students into college as they graduate from high school,” Herrero observed. “But we’ve seen with the pandemic that a lot of our students weren’t able to make it because of family obligations or the issues the pandemic has given them.”

Harry S Truman College, one of the City Colleges schools located in North Chicago, is also partnering with the Center on Education and Labor at New America to develop new strategies to re-enroll students who have put their education on hold for the pandemic.

Support for this report was provided by Lumina Foundation.

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