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Editorial: The University of Chicago steps up for city kids

Rooftops University Chicago campus Hyde Park.  |  Brian Jackson~Sun-Times

Rooftops at the University of Chicago campus in Hyde Park. | Brian Jackson~Sun-Times

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Updated: December 2, 2012 7:07AM

Chew over this heartbreaker:

Across Chicago, many low-income students have what it takes to make it at a top college. But most of them never even apply, let alone attend, America’s top universities.

Only 38 percent of Chicago Public Schools students who qualify for a very selective school actually enroll, according to a study by the University of Chicago Consortium on Chicago School Research. Intimidated by the price tag and overwhelmed by the application and financial aid process, many of them simply aim too low.

The University of Chicago took a step this week to try to right that wrong, pledging to help any Chicago high school student make it through college.

The centerpiece of what it calls the “UChicago Promise” is a commitment to eliminate loans from the financial aid package of any admitted U. of C. student who lives in Chicago. These needy students — from any Chicago high school, public or private — will graduate from the university without debt.

This promise is a true gift to the city of Chicago and comes at a time when other universities are reducing similar programs.

The UChicago effort, done in part at the prodding of Mayor Rahm Emanuel, begins with students enrolling next fall and is a complement to a similar program the U. of C. started five years ago. Students with family incomes below $90,000 will see their loans reduced or replaced altogether by grants. The U. of C. also has other scholarships and programs targeted for Chicago students.

UChicago also is trying to demystify an intimidating application process, a key reason why many students fail to apply. The U. of C. is waiving the application fee for all Chicago residents. Plus, any Chicago students applying to any college can attend seminars offered by the university to help them navigate the admissions process.

The U. of C., one of the nation’s top universities, is taking a remarkable step to welcome more qualified Chicago students.

For that, Chicago says thank you.

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