January 24, 2014

A promising start

Positive results after the first year of UChicago Promise indicate potential for expansion.

According to a University report released last week, the UChicago Promise program increased the number of Chicago-area applicants by nearly 50 percent in its first year. UChicago Promise, announced to the public in the fall of 2012, is a University initiative to increase college opportunities for Chicago high school students. The program waives the application fee for students who live in the Chicago area and has committed $2.2 million to replace all loans with grants for those students. The program also provides workshops that allow high school students to better navigate the college admissions process, regardless of where they plan to attend college. The report issued by UChicago Promise shows that the program has been effective in moving toward accomplishing its goals so far. The University should continue in the direction it’s headed and not only encourage other peer institutions to establish similar programs, but also more fully develop its own program’s availability to UChicago applicants over time.

As one of the prominent universities running a loan-free program, the University has set a national example by launching UChicago Promise. To maximize this influence, the University should collaborate and encourage other universities to establish similar programs. If the University feels that the city of Chicago is a priority, this could mean working with Northwestern, DePaul, and Loyola, for example. The University has already shown an investment in the well-being of students from Chicago through its workshops that provide assistance even to those who will not apply to UChicago. Working with other schools will allow the University to implement the program and its ideals on a wider level. A $10-million initiative announced last week—praised by President Barack Obama—that will in part improve college readiness in high schools across the nation is an encouraging step for the University to take.

At the same time, the University can look inward and move even closer to a no-loan policy for all students, not just those from Chicago. Many premier institutions, including Harvard and Princeton, already engage in more extensive no-loan policies, turning loans into grants for all students. Student organizations throughout Chicago have also advocated for the University to take this step, which we have supported in the past. The University needn’t rush things—assuring that the program is effective in the areas in which it’s employed is a priority—but slowly expanding those who benefit from the program geographically is not only philanthropic, but also allows the school to improve its applicant pool. While the University should be celebrated for its progress toward alleviating financial burdens for students, UChicago’s promise can always extend further.

The Editorial Board is consists of the Editors-in-Chief and the Viewpoints Editors.