Chicago mayor under fire for inflating graduation rates of city college

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Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel has frequently boasted of having “reinvented” the City Colleges of Chicago, claiming that graduation rates and number of degrees awarded have soared since he took office.

In fact, Emanuel has bragged that his policies have increased the graduation rate from 7 percent to 17 percent, and he has challenged City Colleges to increase this to 25 percent by 2019.

However, it’s all based on an illusion, according to a nonpartisan investigative group, the Better Government Association, who has reported that, since 2010, “City Colleges has watered down its curriculum, violated its own rules on what constitutes a degree, changed the way it counts statistics and bestowed thousands of degrees — sometimes in multiples to the same person — to current and former students who in many cases neither requested nor wanted them, the investigation found.”

Titled, “How City Colleges of Chicago awarded thousands of degrees to support Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s marketing agenda even as enrollment at the community college system tanked,” the BGA reports some serious concerns.

The months-long investigation found that Emanuel has tried to create the “appearance of success at a college system where enrollment this year hit a 25-year low.” In 2017, student enrollment was at about 83,000, down 35 percent since Emanuel took office in 2011.

Yet strangely, with enrollment down 35 percent, the college reports that degrees earned have increased.

“In 2016, the college system reported it awarded 5,010 degrees — more than double the annual count before Emanuel took power in 2011,” the report states.

Most concerning is the number of “graduates” interviewed who reported they were awarded degrees they didn’t even know they had coming, and didn’t need.

“I had no idea,” said 73-year-old Iaponira Barbosa-Lewand, a retired sales manager at Neiman Marcus. Records obtained through the Freedom of Information Act show Barbosa-Lewand was retroactively awarded an Associate in General Studies degree in 2015 based largely on classes she took in the 1990s.

“I got an Associate of Arts Degree there in 1994, with honors, but nothing since,” she said. “It makes me sad that they would do such a thing, but this degree means nothing to me.”

A second degree also came as a shock to Marquetta Martin, 26, a sales associate at an athletic apparel store. Martin said she earned an Associate in Arts degree in 2014, but was surprised to learn that college records reflect that in 2015 she was awarded an Associate in General Studies, or AGS.

“What?” Martin said in a September telephone interview. “I never got that degree. All I got was an AA…nobody ever called me. Nobody ever said anything to me. All I have is an AA framed on my wall, I swear.”

“They have manipulated data to score political points on the backs of our students,” said faculty council President Jennifer Alexander when informed of the investigation’s findings.

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