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RISE Academy Program Offers Free First Year Of College At Chicago State University

CHICAGO (CBS) -- If you're a parent or a recent high school graduate, these two words are sure to get your attention – free college.

Chicago State University is making the offer so more minority students can get an education. But as CBS 2's Jim Williams reported Wednesday, you can't just sign up and start learning.

We're not just talking about free tuition – but also free books, fees, and even a laptop. It is only for incoming freshmen and it is only for that first year.

CSU calls it RISE Academy – the initials stand for Retention Initiative for Student Engagement. It is for students enrolled in college there this fall.

If you want in, you have to sign up pretty soon – because you will have to complete a five-week summer program to qualify.

Students will get tutors and advisors to give them the skills they'll need to succeed in college, and get their degree.

It's part of CSU's larger plan to close the education and wealth gap for Chicago's Black and Latinx communities.

"We have watched what has happened to our communities – the devastation, not only from this disease, but from lack of investment, and that is what we are committed to reversing, some of the issues that have impacted our community," said Chicago State University President Zaldwaynaka Scott. "A college degree has been proven not only to advance a person professionally, but also, it improves health outcomes – not only for the graduate, but for the community and their family."

Scott said she anticipates 200 to 300 students will enroll in the program. You may apply online here.

Chicago State has been beset in recent years by declining enrollment and financial problems. Just four years ago, the university threatened to close of the State of Illinois did not provide more funding.

The money came through, but the school had to lay off hundreds of employees.


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