May 30, 2014

Mayor Rahm Emanuel Announces Expanding Access to 6,000 Community College Students to Proven Program that Helps Students Graduate from Community College

CCC’s Partnership with One Million Degrees is Part of Larger Effort to Ensure Students at All Seven City Colleges Complete and Move on to Further College and Careers

Mayor's Press Office    312.744.3334

Mayor Rahm Emanuel announced today the expansion of a partnership between City Colleges of Chicago and One Million Degrees (OMD) to provide support to an estimated 6,000 Chicago-area community college students over the next five years to reach their goal of a degree and further college or a career. One Million Degrees, a non-profit organization, supplements City Colleges’ support services by providing one-on-one coaching, tutoring, skills training and career exploration to community college students enrolled in the program. These services help students navigate obstacles along their path to graduation and ensure a smoother transition to four-year institutions and the workforce.

“City Colleges has already achieved unparalleled success, nearly doubling the graduation rate and awarding a record number of degrees under Chancellor Hyman’s leadership,” said Mayor Emanuel. “The expanded partnership with One Million Degrees will help provide thousands more City Colleges students with personalized academic and professional support to ensure they are on the path to college graduation and successfully reaching their goals.”

One Million Degrees currently serves 100 City Colleges students, half of which attend Harold Washington College or Truman College. As part of its expansion, the program will grow from serving 100 students a year to serving 4,200 students a year by 2020 across all seven colleges, a nearly 40-fold increase. The program is projected to serve a cumulative 6,000 students over five years.

"Through our Reinvention, we vastly expanded our student supports and we have already seen results -- with nearly double the number of students each year reaching their goal of graduation," said City Colleges Chancellor Cheryl Hyman. "The One Million Degrees expansion will mean many more City Colleges students will benefit from mentorship and the targeted soft skills development our employer partners say is critical for professional success."

Among the 100 City Colleges students OMD selects each year, 70 percent graduate from community college within three years. The average OMD Scholar maintains a 3.0 GPA. The vast majority of OMD alumni, 94 percent, are working, continuing their education or both. For those working, the average salary reported by alumni is $50,000 annually.

City Colleges has significantly boosted its student supports since the launch of Reinvention, including the addition of: tutors, academic advisors, transfer specialists, career and transfer centers, veteran centers, and wellness centers, which have helped nearly double City Colleges’ graduation rate and award the highest number of degrees in City Colleges’ history.

The expanded partnership with One Million Degrees complements these efforts, since City Colleges students in the program receive coaching by dedicated volunteers who support the scholars in their academic, professional and personal goals. The scholars receive individual and small group tutoring provided by expert tutors. In addition, programs help students develop leadership, professional and skills so they graduate ready for success in the workplace.

“Our mission as an organization is to provide the support and resources to help each student excel in their education, build relevant skills for the job market and maximize their potential,” said Paige Ponder, CEO of One Million Degrees. “With this collaboration with City Colleges, we hope to make a profound difference in the lives of community college students, now and far into the future.”
OMD’s suite of academic, professional, and personal supports helps its scholars excel in the classroom and beyond. These supports include:

  • Long-term, personalized one-on-one or small-group coaching with professional volunteers who provide ongoing support and training.
  • Immediate and individualized tutoring to support students academically. 
  • Academic supports to ensure Colleges students take advantage of all City Colleges resources and supports. 
  • Personal supports including ongoing intensive support from a dedicated staff and coaching from a team of Applied Behavior Analyst students.
  • Training and professional development, which includes a three-year curriculum of professionalism and communication skills, financial literacy training, and civic engagement and leadership development. 
  • Tours of local companies and organizations introduce students to in-demand careers and the skills needed to succeed.

One Millions Degrees was founded in 2006 and has served more than 400 students since its inception. Among the many OMD alumni is Ashley Cordova, who always wanted to become a Chicago teacher but had struggled academically. With the help of One Million Degrees, Ashley received intensive tutoring, advising, transfer counseling, and a caring coach who mentored her, and she began to excel in her classes. Ashley graduated from Harold Washington College in 2009 and transferred to National Louis University where she earned her Bachelor’s of Education. Now Ashley is a teacher for the Chicago Public Schools and has also enrolled part-time in a Masters of Education program.

“Words cannot begin to describe all the ways the OMD has helped me,” Ashley Cordova said. ”The coaching, tutoring, and OMD staff have been a major contributing factor in my successful academic career.”

About One Million Degrees

One Million Degrees (OMD) is the only organization of its kind in Illinois, and one of the few in the entire country, dedicated to empowering low-income, highly motivated community college students to succeed in school, in work, and in life. OMD provides comprehensive student supports to community college students at the seven City Colleges of Chicago, Harper College, College of Lake County, Prairie State College and South Suburban College. For more information visit: 

About City Colleges of Chicago

City Colleges of Chicago is the largest community college system in Illinois and one of the largest in the nation, with 5,700 faculty and staff serving 115,000 students annually at seven colleges and six satellite sites citywide. City Colleges of Chicago is in the midst of a Reinvention, a collaborative effort to review and revise City Colleges programs and practices to ensure students leave City Colleges college-ready, career-ready and prepared to pursue their life's goals.

City Colleges of Chicago includes seven colleges: Richard J. Daley College, Kennedy-King College, Malcolm X College, Olive-Harvey College, Harry S Truman College, Harold Washington College and Wilbur Wright College. The system also oversees the Washburne Culinary Institute, the French Pastry School, two restaurants, five Child Development Centers, the Center for Distance Learning, the Workforce Institute, the public broadcast station WYCC-TV Channel 20 and radio station WKKC-FM 89.3. For more information about City Colleges of Chicago, call: (773) COLLEGE or visit