The 7 percent solution | Feature | Chicago Reader

The 7 percent solution 

Chancellor Cheryl Hyman promises student success at her—"reinvented"—alma mater, the City Colleges. Can she deliver?

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But the most startling was the simultaneous dumping of four of the seven college presidents. (Only Laackman and another relatively recent hire, Daley College president Jose Aybar, were given a pass; the former head of internal audit at the district office is serving as interim president at Kennedy-King.) Told in February that they'd need to reapply for their jobs because of a "new job description," they were all replaced in June.

Hyman says she saved $30 million by making cuts this year. She laid off 225 "non-instructional" employees (about 40 from the district office) and is adding advisers, financial aid counselors, and 66 full-time faculty. But she's also added to the upper echelons of her staff. The Central District Office operating budget for 2012 is nearly $62 million, about the same as the budget for Truman College or Wright. And Hyman's top officials now include nine vice chancellors, a chief of staff, a chief operating officer, and a "chief advisor to the board of trustees," all drawing $100,000-plus salaries.

"Meanwhile," says Liebman, "we have classrooms of 35 to 40. And the average ACT score is 17. Reading levels are [often] fourth, fifth, or sixth grade. As far as we're concerned, we're quite successful when somebody comes back the next year."

At the June meeting of the board, with the discarded presidents lined up in front of the trustees like so many sitting ducks, All-College Faculty Council president Polly Hoover reported on the "profound disappointment of the faculty" about the process of the presidents' replacements and the "erosion" of shared governance. "We support the goals of reinvention if they reflect a nuanced understanding of the complexities of the issues," Hoover said, noting that "the faculty have been here before; we've undergone waves of reforms with little substantive change. Consequently, we are profoundly skeptical and cautious. We hope this is a brave new world. We fear it is Huxley's brave new world."

A new provost, Kojo Quartey, was hired last month without input from the faculty. Quartey is an economist and former dean of the business school at Davenport University, a private, nonprofit institution in Michigan with an enrollment of about 13,000 students. At press time, the list of task force recommendations had not yet been posted, but it's a safe bet that the reinvention will show positive results. From the baseline that's been drawn, there's nowhere to go but up. Whether the numbers will be meaningful for students is another question. Hoover says, for example, that students who are transferring to a four-year college don't really need everything that's required for the two-year degree, which is why many of them haven't bothered with it. The graduation rate went up this year, she says, "simply because we were out there pushing it."

And if those fears of colleges being turned into factories, cranking out degrees like so many widgets—faster, faster, cheaper, cheaper—seem overblown, consider the remarkable new tutoring program developed under Aybar at Daley College that's said to be doubling pass rates for remedial courses.

Its official acronym is CASH-to-ROI. 

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