March 18, 2015

City Colleges of Chicago’s Kennedy-King College Wins National Award for Rapid Improvement in Completion

Top Ten Finalist for the 2015 Aspen Prize for Community College Excellence, Kennedy-King Receives Rising Star Award for Tripling of Graduation Rates

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Kennedy-King College, one of the City Colleges of Chicago, has won the first-ever Aspen “Rising Star” award for rapid improvement in completion. Kennedy-King-College, a finalist for the 2015 Aspen Prize for Community College Excellence, was selected from more than 1,100 community colleges nationwide for this award.

“The City of Chicago could not be prouder of Kennedy-King College for being the first-ever recipient of the Rising Star Award by the Aspen Institute. This recognition is a testament to the hard work of the students and the tireless commitment of the faculty to constantly raise the bar of the education that Kennedy-King provides,” said Mayor Rahm Emanuel. “Kennedy-King’s achievement also speaks to the larger progress we are seeing throughout the Chicago City College system. We will continue to build on this progress to ensure that a diploma from the Chicago City Colleges provides a pathway into a middle class life.”

Located in the heart of Chicago’s Englewood community, Kennedy-King was recognized by the Aspen Institute for the significant improvements in completion made since the launch of City Colleges’ Reinvention initiative, a comprehensive reform effort Chancellor Cheryl Hyman launched to revamp all aspects of City Colleges to ensure students’ success. Kennedy-King College will receive $100,000 in prize funds.

“Our mission is to ensure the success of all of our students and we’ve seen impressive results through Reinvention,” said Chancellor Hyman. “Kennedy-King College’s graduation rate has tripled since the launch of Reinvention and more students are achieving their goals, whether that’s completing a credential of economic value, pursuing a bachelor’s degree or entering the workforce with a family-sustaining wage.”

“We are proud that our hard work is being recognized by the Aspen Institute,” said Arshele Stevens, president of Kennedy-King College. “Similar to City Colleges’ Reinvention, this distinction is primarily based on hard data. Our success rates are up thanks to strategic initiatives and dedication and commitment all round.”

Aspen Institute named many reasons why Kennedy-King College stands out as the one of the nation’s top community college including:

  • Since the launch of Reinvention at Kennedy-King College:
  • The college’s official federally-recognized graduation rate has more than tripled
  • Total number of degrees and certificates awarded increased by more than 75 percent Remarkable improvement in its transfer rate, rising 38 percent
  • Launch of College to Careers, where college faculty and administrators partnered with leaders in the culinary and hospitality industry to ensure students receive stackable credentials of economic value that are relevant to the marketplace, providing students the opportunity to gain work experience while pursuing an associate degree.
  • Development of clear, structured career pathways through Student GPS, which outlines the student’s semester by semester path through the institution while working toward their career and academic goals, combined with an increase in student supports and intensive advising.

Since launching a Reinvention in 2010, City Colleges of Chicago has:

  • Awarded the highest number of degrees in its history.
  • Doubled its graduation rate.
  • With Mayor Emanuel, launched College to Careers, through which City Colleges is working alongside 150 employer and four-year college partners to revamp curricula, and since 2011, more than 2,800 students have a secured a job or internship in their chosen field.
  • Experienced a more than 150 percent increase in the number of student transitions from adult education, which are English as a second language and GED programs, to college-credit work.
  • Increased the capacity of its free dual enrollment program for Chicago high school students by ten-fold.
  • With Mayor Emanuel, launched the Chicago STAR Scholarship, which provides a free City Colleges education for qualifying Chicago high school graduates.
  • Saved $61 million through the elimination of redundancies and greater efficiencies, which has been reinvested back into the classroom, and posted a balanced budget every year with no increase in property taxes.
  • For more information about City Colleges, visit For more information and for a complete list of the finalists and winners, visit

About City Colleges of Chicago

City Colleges of Chicago (CCC) 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. The seven colleges include: Richard J. Daley College, Kennedy-King College, Malcolm X College, Olive-Harvey College, Harry S Truman College, Harold Washington College and Wilbur Wright College. City Colleges also oversees: the award-winning Washburne Culinary & Hospitality Institute, the French Pastry School, the Parrot Cage Restaurant at South Shore Cultural Center, the Sikia Banquet Facility, five Child Development Centers, the Workforce Academy, the public broadcast station WYCC-TV Channel 20 and radio station WKKC-FM 89.3.

Under the leadership of Chancellor Cheryl Hyman, the City Colleges of Chicago is in the midst of a Reinvention, a collaborative effort to review and revise CCC programs and practices to ensure students leave CCC college-ready, career-ready and prepared to pursue their life's goals. Since the launch of Reinvention, City Colleges has awarded the highest number of degrees in its history and doubled the graduation rate.