Chicago Public School

Child Studying CPS material

Chicago Public Schools, CPS, is the fourth-largest public school system in the country, as measured by enrollment. For the 2014-2015 school year CPS reported overseeing 660 schools. This included 484 elementary schools and 176 high schools. 517 of these were district-run, 130 were charter, 11 were contract and 2 were SAFE schools. The enrollment for the same time period was over 396,000 students.

Chicago received its charter in 1837, but it wasn’t until 1854, when John Dore was appointed the first superintendent of schools, that a significant move was made regarding the education system. Dore was born in New Hampshire, graduated from Dartmouth at 21, started as an assistant teacher and was later elected principal of Boylston school, before coming to Chicago. He worked hard to bring structure to a struggling system. It was under his watch that the fight for better trained teachers, a longer school year, improved resources and age-appropriate classes all began.

CPS has been through a roller coaster since that time in its quest to educate the youth of the city. In the early 1900’s times were hard as the administration began to work on centralizing many of the functions. It also proved to be a testing ground for many of the new and progressive educational ideas of the time. Very well known, national figures, thought Chicago, with its growing size and high immigrant population, was perfect. Some pushed for a strong vocational track in the high schools while public health advocates focused their attention on exercise and children’s physical education classes. After WWI, and through WWII, there was an explosion in student enrollment that shot numbers up to what they are today, around 400,000. The 60’s and 70’s are marked by the emergence of unionization. In 1966 the city teachers elected the Chicago Teachers Union as their bargaining agent and within 3 years they conducted the first system-wide teacher strike in Chicago history.

These days the public school system in Chicago is known for extremes. In some areas performance is among the worst in the nation. Low graduation rates, poor testing scores and high dropout numbers plague many schools. Funding is low and schools have 25% of their capacity. In other areas funding is high and students test highly amongst their national peers and have been shown to perform well in college.

Charter Schools

Child studying by candlelight

A charter school is a school that receives government funding but operates independently of the school system where it resides. They are given more freedom in what, and how, they teach then the traditional school system. In 1991 Minnesota passed the first charter school law in the country and by 1996 the Illinois Charter School law passes the General Assembly and was signed by Governor Jim Edgar.

The original law only called for the creation of 45 charter schools; 15 in Chicago, 15 in the suburbs and 15 in downstate Illinois. Students have to apply to get into these publicly-funded but privately-managed schools, and there are lotteries if there are more applications than spaces. Due to increased demand the number has grown rapidly over the recent years. Today there are over 144 charter school campuses. As of 2014-2015 charter schools serve 14% of the district overall. 23% of high school students and 11% of elementary school students in Chicago were enrolled in a charter school. Both current Governor Bruce Rauner and Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel support legislation pushing for the expansion of charter schools in Chicago and Illinois.

The Noble Network of Charter Schools is the largest charter school network in Chicago. It was founded in 1999 through a partnership between Ron Manderschied, President of Northwestern University Settlement House, Michael Milkie, and Tonya Hernandez Milkie. They currently have 17 campuses in Chicago and over 10,500 student enrollment. The Noble Schools have an overall college acceptance rate of over 90% and receive anywhere from 10%-25% less funding than traditional schools. In 2015, the Noble Network of Charter Schools was named the best performing large public charter school system in America by the Eli and Edythe Broad Foundation and was awarded $250,000 by the foundation.

Private Schools

Text Books for Private Schools

A private school is one that is independent, or non-governmental. They are not in any way affiliated or administered by any local or state government and receive no public funding. Because they are free from any government intrusion they have the right to choose their students and also to charge them tuition.

There have been many private schools throughout Chicago. The Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Chicago, which runs the Office of Catholic Schools, is the largest private school system in the United States. Catholic education officially began on June 3, 1944 with the opening of a boys school. However, it wasn’t until 1861 that one opened that would be able to stand the test of time. St. Patricks High School is an all male college preparatory high school on the Northwest side of Chicago. It has been open continuously since 1861 and is the oldest Catholic school in the city.

Not all private schools have a religious affiliation. The University of Chicago Laboratory Schools were founded in 1894 by John Dewey and University President William R. Harper, the “Dewey School” opened its doors as University Primary School on January 13, 1896 in the Hyde Park Area of Chicago, with twelve children present and one teacher in charge. Today it is a private, co-educational day school in Chicago that is closely affiliated with the University. Almost half of the students enrolled there have at least one parent who is faculty or staff of the University.

The Latin School of Chicago is another example of a historic, private school in Chicago. It is a selective private elementary, middle, and high school located in the Gold Coast neighborhood. The school was founded in 1888 by Mabel Slade Vickery and is the oldest independent day school in Chicago. The school is a member of the Independent School League.

Due to the large number of Catholic school closings in recent years the percent of kids in Chicago taught in private schools has been declining. However, it is still relatively large when compared across the nation.

City Colleges

Graduation from college

The City Colleges of Chicago is a system of seven colleges that provide a variety of classes to the residents of Chicago. They offer everything from two-year associate degrees to vocational classes and GED courses. As of 2017 total student enrollment across the colleges topped 80,000.

The City Colleges began in 1911 with the opening of Crane Junior College on September 11th. What began with 30 students and one class, grew, and by 1929 had over 4,000 students and was the largest community college in the United States.

Throughout the 20th century the City College system saw sustained growth and eventually opened the seven colleges we have today; Malcolm X, Turman, Olive-Harvey, Richard J. Daley, Kennedy–King, Wilbur Wright and Harold Washington. Although the original Crane Junior College closed the message and hope that it brought is one that lived on and expanded throughout the city.

In 2010, City Colleges of Chicago launched a new program entitled “Reinvention”. Their vision was to completely revitalize the City Colleges programs and operations. Its four stated goals are to increase the number of students earning degrees, increase the transfer rate to four-year institutions, improve outcomes for students needing remediation and increase the number of adult education and English as a second language students advancing to college-level courses. By working together with students who have successfully completed the course and cutting edge educators the administration hopes to continue to succeed.

One of the programs that was born of the Reinvention initiative is College to Careers. Through a close partnership with the business community the City Colleges is able to focus is curriculum on what employers desire. This sets up students with the best possible employment opportunities upon graduation.

Another unique experiment in Chicago City College is the Star Scholarship Program. Students who graduate from CPS in 2017 or after with a 3.0 GPA who test completion-ready in math and English will be able to pursue an associate degree at City Colleges of Chicago at no cost – free tuition and books.

University of Illinois at Chicago

University of Illinois at Chicago

The University of Illinois at Chicago is a public research University located in Chicago, Illinois. The current campus, the first having been located on Navy Pier, is the second established under the U of I system. UIC is home to approximately 29,000 students enrolled across 15 colleges.

The University of Illinois was chartered in 1867 in Champaign-Urbana. There were many deals and promises made but eventually the Chicago legislators agreed to the Champaign-Urbana location, but in exchange they were promised their own campus. Eventually this led to the Chicago-based health colleges affiliated with the University in 1896–97, becoming fully incorporated into the University of Illinois in 1913, as the Colleges of Medicine, Dentistry, and Pharmacy. Medical education and research expanded in the succeeding decades, leading to the development of several other health science colleges, which were brought together as the Chicago Professional Colleges. In 1935, the first act of newly elected state representative Richard J. Daley was to introduce a resolution calling for the establishment of an undergraduate Chicago campus of the University of Illinois.

This led to the construction of UIC officially being recognized as a two-year degree granting institution in 1946. The two-year branch campus was located on Navy Pier and educated returning veterans of World War II. However, by 1965 then Mayor Daley recognized the need for more, for the people of Chicago. The University Board proposed many locations but eventually settled on the Little Italy neighborhood, in the West Loop. The heart of the campus was built there in 1967 and remains to this day.

Today more than 13,000 people work at UIC, 93.5 percent of whom live in Illinois. UIC adds $4.0 billion to the economy of the Chicago region, most of which comes from UIC’s impact on educational attainment in the state. UIC operates the largest medical school in the United States with research expenditures exceeding $412 million and consistently ranks in the top 50 U.S. institutions for research expenditures. In 2015 the Times Higher Education World University Rankings ranked UIC as the 18th University in the World Under 50 years old.



Northwestern is a private, research University located in Evanston, Illinois. Even though it is not located in the city of Chicago, its close enough that Northwestern carries the title of Chicago’s Big Ten school. It is known as a very prestigious school that is particularly selective with the student admission process. Northwestern is also known for its highly ranked Kellogg School of Management, Pritzker School of Law, Feinberg School of Medicine, and Medill School of Journalism.

Northwestern can trace its beginnings to a meeting on May 31, 1850. Nine prominent men from Chicago, including John Evans, met and discussed the idea of forming a university. The area, then known as the Northwest Territory, needed to have access to advanced education. On January 28, 1851 the Illinois General Assembly granted a charter to the Trustees of the Northwestern University…and so it began.

The main campus of Northwestern is located in Evanston, along the shore of Lake Michigan. The college has grown from humble beginnings, it started with one building named Old College, to today attracting more than $650 million in research each year. They are a founding member of the Big Ten Conference, one of the most prestigious in the NCAA, and to this day remain the only private university in the conference. Northwestern has attracted many people who have either accomplished great things, or went on to do so. The University’s former and present faculty and alumni include 11 Nobel Prize laureates, 38 Pulitzer Prize winners, 6 MacArthur Genius Fellows, 16 Rhodes Scholars, 65 members of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and two Supreme Court Justices.

Research work at Northwestern is at the cutting edge and currently contributing to the advancement of fields such as brain cancer and stem cell therapy.

Illinois Institute of Technology

Illinois Institute of Technology

Illinois Institute of Technology, or IIT for short, is a private, Ph.D granting research university located in Chicago, Illinois. IIT is a space-grant university and offers programs in engineering, science, human sciences, applied technology, architecture, business, design and law. A space-grant university is part of a network of 52 universities across the United States that pursue outer-space related research. The U.S Congress began the National Space Grant College and Fellowship Program in 1988. NASA currently runs the program and has since 1989.

IIT began almost as an answer to the elite, classism of its day. 1890 was a time when higher education was reserved for the well off in society. The middle and lower class of the time felt they were being left behind and that their children weren’t allowed to dream the same dreams as those born into better situations. In response to this growing sentiment Chicago minister Frank Wakely Gunsaulus delivered what came to be known as the “Million Dollar Sermon”. The speech he delivered was firey and in it he claimed that with $1 million he could build a school where students would learn to think in practical, logical terms. A school where the curriculum was built on science, with trial and error…not theory.

Moved by the vision of the minister’s speech, a local meatpacking businessman named Philip Danforth Armour, donated $1 million for the creation of a school. What started as the Armour Institute, later merged with the Lewis Institute, to form what is now known as the Illinois Institute of Technology.

Today IIT is known for many accolades and the accomplishments of its faculty and alumni. IIT was ranked as a tier 1 university being the 108th best university nationally, and the fourth best university in the Chicago metropolitan area based on U.S. News & World Report‘s “Best Colleges 2014.” Some past alumni include Nobel Laureates, a Secretary of the Air Force, and the inventor of the mobile phone.

University of Chicago

University of Chicago Archway

The University of Chicago, UofC, is a private research university located on the South Side of Chicago in the Hyde Park neighborhood. The university is made up of the undergraduate programs and five academic research divisions along with seven professional schools.  U of C is well known for its renowned professional schools. The Pritzker School of Medicine, the Booth School of Business, the Law School, the School of Social Service Administration, and the Harris School of Public Policy Studies have all achieved international acclaim and hold many spots in the top ten in world rankings.

The beginning of the University of Chicago actually has two starts. The first, now officially recognized as the Old University of Chicago, was founded by a group of Baptist ministers through a land endowment from Senator Stephen Douglas. The University opened in 1856 in what is today the Bronzeville neighborhood. It didn’t take long for U of C to fall on hard times financially due to its affiliation with Senator Douglas, an advocate and owner of slaves. Due to The Great Fire of 1871, the Panic of 1873 and a small fire in 1874 that damaged it again, the University was officially on its last leg. At the final Board of Trustees meeting in 1890 they officially changed the name to the Old University of Chicago to pave the way for the new one to be built.

The new, or current, University of Chicago began with a donation by John D. Rockefeller, land donated by Marshall Field, and work done by the American Educational Baptist Society. In 1890 they officially reincorporated and by October 1, 1892 the doors to the classroom were opened for the first time.

Today the University is known for its accomplished and varied alumni. 92 Nobel laureates have been affiliated with the university as professors, students, faculty, or staff, making it the fifth most of any institution in the world. Similarly, 34 faculty members and 17 alumni have been awarded the MacArthur “Genius Grant”. In addition, Chicago’s alumni and faculty include 53 Rhodes Scholars, 25 Marshall Scholars, 9 Fields Medalists, 20 National Humanities Medalists, 13 billionaire graduates and a plethora of members of the United States Congress and heads of state of countries all over the world.


Columbia College Chicago

Columbia College of Chicago is a private, non-profit, liberal arts college located in the South Loop neighborhood. It has more than 8,000 students pursuing degrees in over 100 undergraduate and 15 graduate studies. Columbia was ranked as a Tier 2 university in Best Colleges Regional Universities Midwest 2018 edition. Niche ranked Columbia with an overall grade of B- for an educational institution.

Columbia College Chicago was founded in 1890 as the Columbia School of Oratory by Mary A. Blood and Ida Morey Riley. Both graduated from the Monroe Conservatory of Oratory, which is now called Emerson College, in Boston, Massachusetts. They believed that because Chicago was hosting the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition that there would be a strong need for public speakers. Blood and Riley both served as the college’s first co-presidents, and did so until they died. They believed in a strong educational spirit and that an environment which facilitated that, along with a staunch moral philosophy would benefit the student body.

Under the guidance of Mirron Alexandroff, who became president of the college in 1961, the university placed a renewed emphasis on academics and received full accreditation in 1974 from the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools. The graduate programs became accredited in 1984.

Like many places of higher education Columbia College of Chicago has received both criticism and praise over the years. The school has continued to receive recognition from many different organizations and businesses in the fields it is associated with.


DePaul University

DePaul University is a private, Roman-Catholic, school located in Chicago, Illinois. They are currently categorized in the NCAA Big East Division 1. Since 1998 it has been recognized as the largest Catholic university, as measured by enrollment, in the United States. The two main campuses are located in Lincoln Park and The Loop. Due to its religious affiliation, and the beliefs of its founder, DePaul places special emphasis on recruiting first-generation college students and others from disadvantaged backgrounds.

DePaul was founded in 1898 by the Congregation of the Mission priests and brothers. They are sometimes referred to as Vincentians because of the way they adhere to the beliefs of 17th-century French priest Saint Vincent de Paul. In alignment with the mission of the Roman Catholic Church the university was founded with the intention of serving the children of the ever expanding immigrant population of Chicago. Enrollment was small at first, only 70 students, on the same Lincoln Park campus they still occupy.

Since its humble beginnings DePaul has blossomed. Enrollment for 2016 was over 15,000 undergraduates and 7,700 postgraduates. The university receives an endowment of over $420 million annually and continues to be recognized as a leader in multiple fields. The men’s basketball team is the leading athletic team for the school. The have made a total of 18 NCAA tournament appearances and two trips to the Final Four.


Loyola University Chicago

Loyola University Chicago is a private, Catholic research university located in Chicago, Illinois. Loyola is made up of eleven colleges and offers over 80 undergraduate and 140 graduate/professional programs. Over 16,000 students call Loyola home. Loyola has six campuses located across the Chicago metropolitan area, but the main one is spread between two neighborhoods; Rogers Park and Edgewater. Positioned right on the shores of Lake Michigan and just 8 miles north of the Loop, Loyola is in a great location for students, faculty and staff.

Loyola was founded in 1870 by a Jesuit priest named Fr. Arnold Damen. It was originally named St. Ignatius College and located on Roosevelt Road. However, the name was changed to Loyola University in 1909 and it eventually moved to the location it is still in to this day in 1923. This also marked a time of great change for the university in ways much bigger than just its name. Loyola University Chicago walked through the door and into the area of medical education when it assumed the operation of the Illinois Medical School in 1909, and that of the Bennett and Reliance Medical Schools in the following year. In 1915, control of all three institutions passed to Loyola’s board of trustees. This was the beginning of something big for the university.

Loyola is known and recognized on a national level for the excellence in education that it provides to its students. US News ranked it 103rd in National Universities, 62nd in Best Colleges for Veterans and 58th in Best Value Schools. Niche also ranked it 34th among all Catholic colleges in the nation. And while it may not be the most popular school amongst celebrities, there are a few famous people that refer to Loyola as their alma matter; George Halas Jr. former president and owner of the Chicago Bears, Lisa Madigan, former Illinois State Attorney General, and William M. Daley, President Obama’s White House Chief of Staff and former United States Secretary of Commerce under President Bill Clinton.


Northeastern University

Northeastern Illinois University, NEIU, is a public state university located in Chicago, Illinois. Home to over 9,500 students and 1,500 administrative staff NEIU doesn’t have quite as strict admission standards as some of the neighboring schools. Due to a variety of programs specifically tailored to meet the needs of the Latino population Northeastern was the first four-year, public University to be federally designated as a Hispanic Serving Institution in the Midwest. The main campus is located in the community area of North Park with three additional campuses in the metropolitan area. NEIU has one of the longest running free form community radio stations, WZRD Chicago 88.3 FM.

In 1949, Chicago Teachers College established the Chicago Teachers College: North Side branch on the north side of Chicago. In 1961 that school relocated to its current location due to space issues and zoning with the previous spot. In 1965 they changed its name to Illinois Teacher’s College: Chicago North. Later on control of the school passed into the hands of the State of Illinois. In 1967, the Illinois Legislature acted to remove the title of “teachers college” from all state colleges and universities and the college became Northeastern Illinois State College.

In 1971, the school became Northeastern Illinois University after it was granted university status and was given a mandate by the Illinois Legislature “to offer such courses of instruction as shall best serve to qualify teachers for the schools of the State; and to offer such other courses of instruction, conduct such research and offer such public services as are prescribed by the Board of Governors of State Colleges and Universities or its successor.”

Even in today’s current political and financial climate Northeastern continues to see success. Despite the fact that public universities in the state of Illinois have seen a drastic cut in state funding NEIU has graduated more students and begun to implement plans to expand. For the Fall 2016 semester NEIU will offer, for the first time, housing on-campus.