Paying for higher education is difficult for college students in Chicago. Recent data estimated that students who graduated from public and private four-year institutions in Illinois emerged with an average of more than $22,000 in debt. Miguel del Valle, Chicago's clerk and a candidate running for the city's open mayoral seat, is seeking to make that imposing burden a campaign issue in the mayoral race.
At Malcolm X. College this morning, del Valle announced what he's calling the "New Pathways to an Affordable Higher Education" initiative. The idea is to bolster and expand dual-credit and dual-enrollment programs at the City Colleges of Chicago system, offering students more options to study at a city college institution for two or three years before finishing their degree at a four-year school. This would increase accessibility to higher education, help produce the workforce Chicago needs, and reduce the crippling debt students grapple with, del Valle said. “The cost of the community college is about a third of the cost of a public university. Students usually attend their local community college and can often live at home to further reduce expenses,” del Valle said in a press statement.
There's been a lot of talk about the future of the city colleges system of late, and del Valle's ideas for it is a welcome addition to the debate. It may be good politics for del Valle too -- appealing to younger voters on the issues they face.