Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel might be in trouble.
The Better Government Association recently reported that the mayor inflated the graduation rates of Chicago’s colleges. According to the report, the City Colleges of Chicago awarded thousands of degrees even though enrollment in the community college system had decreased at a drastic rate.
Mayor Emanuel has often stated that one of his biggest accomplishments was that he reinvented the City Colleges of Chicago. The mayor claimed that the graduation rates and a number of degrees awarded have skyrocketed since he took office.
Specifically, Emanuel has claimed that the graduation rate has increased from 7 percent to 17 percent as a result of his policies. However, all is not as it seems.
According to the Better Government Association (BGA), a nonpartisan watchdog group, Emanuel’s boasts are not based in reality. In their report, they write,
“City Colleges has watered down its curriculum, violated its own rules on what constitutes a degree, changed the way it counts statistics and bestowed thousands of degrees — sometimes in multiples to the same person — to current and former students who in many cases neither requested nor wanted them, the investigation found.”
The BGA conducted an investigation that lasted for months. They found that the mayor attempted to create the “appearance of success at a college system where enrollment this year hit a 25-year low.” Student enrollment was down 35 percent since Emanuel took office in 2011. Interestingly, the colleges report that the number of degrees awarded has increased, even though overall enrollment has decreased.
The BGA’s report states that the college system awarded 5,010 degrees, which is more than double the annual amount before Emanuel became mayor. What concerned BGA was the fact that many graduates who they interviewed stated that they were given degrees that they didn’t know they had earned. These were degrees the students did not need.
In one case, a 73-year-old alumni was retroactively awarded an Associate in General Studies degree in 2015. The degree was awarded based mostly on classes she took in the 1990s.
“I got an Associate of Arts Degree there in 1994, with honors, but nothing since,” she stated. “It makes me sad that they would do such a thing, but this degree means nothing to me.”
In another instance, a former student was unaware of being awarded a degree. She earned an Associate of Arts degree in 2014, but college records reveal that she was also awarded an Associate in General Studies in 2015.
The former student claims she never received the degree. “I never got that degree. All I got was an AA…nobody ever called me,” she said. “Nobody ever said anything to me. All I have is an AA framed on my wall, I swear.”
According to faculty council President Jennifer Alexander, “They have manipulated data to score political points on the backs of our students.”
The results of this study further demonstrate the utter corruption that is rampant in Chicago’s government. Unfortunately, it is unlikely that Emanuel will suffer any consequences for deliberately working the college system to further his political agenda. However, the more this level of malfeasance is exposed, the less likely it is that people will be taken in by politicians like Emanuel.