CPS well-represented among UIC honors scholarship winners

Students walking on campus sidewalksForty graduates from Chicago Public Schools are among the 83 recipients of this fall’s inaugural Fresh Start scholarships in the University of Illinois at Chicago’s Honors College.

“These are the strongest students at the university. They stand out as classroom leaders, who seek out intellectual challenges and engagement,” says Bette L. Bottoms, dean of the Honors College and professor of psychology. “But their financial needs are great. We are pleased to support their achievements as they enter the UIC Honors College community.”

The award, which is based on merit and financial need, ranges from $1,000 to $5,000 and can be used toward any cost of attendance, such as tuition, housing or books.

In addition to the 40 Fresh Start scholarship awardees, another dozen 2014 CPS graduates accepted the President’s Award Program-Honors Scholarship, which is the Honors College’s most prestigious award, covering four years of tuition and housing for exemplary incoming first-year students. Additional Honors College freshman scholarships were awarded to three other CPS graduates.

The UIC Honors College, with approximately 1,500 students and 330 faculty fellows, provides select undergraduates with a nurturing and collaborative educational environment to explore issues in depth, through special projects and classes. Students must maintain a 3.4 grade point average (on a 4.0 scale) and complete special honors enrichment activities, including a senior thesis.

Applications to the Honors College have doubled over the last two years. The first-to-second-year retention rate is 92 percent, while the six-year graduation rate is 88 percent, rivaling or exceeding the best colleges in the nation.

In addition to access to merit and need-based scholarships, Honors College students enjoy “honors only” facilities; civic engagement opportunities; and the mentoring of Honors College faculty fellows, who offer guidance on advanced research projects.

In a recent research project, Honors College senior Dulce Diaz and faculty mentor Susan Farruggia found that enrollment in the Honors College improved student success even after accounting for differences in entering factors such as ACT score, AP credit, or financial background.

Positive effects were even stronger for underrepresented minority students than for others, who might have strong support systems already. Underrepresented students make up about 20 percent of the college and 30 percent of last year’s entering freshman class.

“Closing the achievement gap between students of different races and ethnicities is exceptionally important since our college is one of the most diverse honors colleges in the nation,” Bottoms said.

The six-year graduation rate for students who entered the Honors College in 2008 is 90 percent for Asian American students, 86 percent for whites, 85 percent for Latinos and 75 percent for African-Americans.

Established in 1982, the UIC Honors College grew out of a longtime university program that sought to enhance the experience of academically superior students. Admission is based upon factors such as high school class rank, grades earned in high school, extracurricular interests and activities, strength of application essays, and performance in an in-person interview that explores their desire to participate in the Honors College.

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