CHICAGO, May 29, 2015 /PRNewswire/ -- Arne Duncan, U.S. Secretary of Education, joined North Lawndale College Prep (NLCP) President John Horan today on Chicago's west side to announce The Phoenix Pact, a new scholarship program that makes it possible for graduates of NLCP to attend top four-year colleges without having to pay anything out-of-pocket for tuition, fees, room and board. NLCP student recipients, families, and partnering college representatives attended the private event.
More than $18M has been raised to fund the program, which is designed to ensure that the school's graduates can attend the colleges where they are most likely to be successful, without cost standing in the way.
"To see the journey going from a class of kids to a system that is not just one lucky family, one lucky child, but that children from across the west side of Chicago can come here and not just graduate and go to college -- I can't tell you how much it means to me personally," said Duncan, who was a founding Board member of NLCP when it opened in 1998.
Named after NLCP's mascot, the mythical Phoenix that is re-born from its own ashes, the program is a three-way "pact": students commit to graduate with a B average or better and attend a college with a track record of successfully graduating minority students; colleges commit to keeping total loan costs manageable and to ensuring that 50% or more of their minority students earn a degree; and the Phoenix Pact Fund commits to cover any financial gap remaining between the cost of attendance and available financial aid.
"Too often our graduates settle for colleges that haven't had much success with low-income and minority students because they can't pay the two- to three-thousand extra that it costs to go to the more successful colleges," said Horan. "The Phoenix Pact changes that. It makes college choice cost-neutral."
To date, 15 colleges have signed on to be partners in the program, including University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, University of Illinois at Chicago, Michigan State University, Lake Forest College, and Carleton College among others.
The Phoenix Pact Fund's goal is to provide scholarships to all qualifying students for many years to come. More than 40 NLCP 2015 graduates will receive Phoenix Pact scholarships in its inaugural year. It is expected that eventually, as many as 100 graduates of NLCP will receive scholarships annually – to the benefit of hundreds of families on Chicago's West Side.
The larger vision for the program is rooted in the fact that the U.S. spends $35 billion a year on Pell grants to send low-income students to college, but less than 20% of these students ever earn a degree.
"Pell is broken," said Evan Westerfield, Board Chair of the Phoenix Pact Fund, the organization that is providing the scholarships. "The current system will never change until a compelling alternative is put forward and tested. The Phoenix Pact will be that alternative."
Since its founding 17 years ago, NLCP's mission has been to prepare young people from under-resourced communities so that they have the academic skills and personal resilience necessary for successful completion of college. To date, NLCP's graduates have earned degrees at four-to-five times the national average for low-income students. The Phoenix Pact will help NLCP push that number even higher.
For more information about The Phoenix Pact, visit www.phoenixpact.org or call Evan Westerfield (847) 868-4324.
SOURCE North Lawndale College Prep