Former Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel is infusing a scholarship program he created at the City Colleges of Chicago with a $100,000 donation — and he pledges to keep contributing every year.
Emanuel will give 20 awards of $5,000 to students in the community college network’s Star Scholarship program, which pays for the cost of tuition and books not already covered by financial aid, according to a Thursday news release from City Colleges.
The money will help students in the program who go on to pursue a bachelor’s degree at a four-year university, said spokeswoman Katheryn Hayes. More than 25 universities in Illinois and out of state partner with City Colleges to lower the cost of attendance for students who progress.
In a statement, Emanuel said he and his wife, Amy Rule, have witnessed the talent and commitment of students in the program.
“We also know the burden that college costs put on an entire family,” Emanuel said. The scholarship “is a lifeline to students and parents. We plan to continue making an annual investment in these students and encourage others to join us to ultimately support 1,000 Scholars in pursuit of a Bachelor’s degree.”
Since its inception, more than 10,000 students have been awarded Star Scholarships. Nearly 2,000 students in the program have transferred to four-year institutions, with the majority going to partner schools, according to City Colleges.
Emanuel sees the scholarship and his education platform a key part of his legacy, despite the damage from his administration’s handling of the fatal police shooting of Black teenager Laquan McDonald. Last month, progressive Democrats cited the controversy in arguing that Emanuel shouldn’t be appointed to the new presidential Cabinet.
During his terms as mayor, Emanuel also faced criticism that his policies prioritized the city’s elite, but he dismissed that notion by pointing to the City Colleges program, telling the Tribune in 2019: “How many people in the Chicago Star scholarship are in the 1 percent?”
According to City Colleges, 67% of Star Scholarships recipients are Hispanic, 18% are Black and 8% are white. Students from more than 75 ZIP codes and 175 high schools citywide have received the scholarship.
Hayes said Emanuel’s contribution is in a donor-advised fund and will be accessible soon. She said Emanuel’s donation will continue over multiple years but didn’t know the future amounts or the gift’s duration.
“The Star Scholarship is a bold program that addresses Chicago families’ need for an affordable pathway to a college degree,” said Walter E. Massey, who chairs the City Colleges Board of Trustees.
In June, City Colleges announced an additional debt-forgiveness program for students who dropped out of classes within the last 10 years and want to return to complete their degrees.