In 1987, before the start of my senior year of high school, the CPS teachers went on strike. Many parents were trying to find a safe place for their children. I recall Chicago State University (CSU) opening their doors for all high school students. We could sign up for workshops, resume writing, employment strategies, and financial aid for college. Throughout the four weeks of the strike, I enjoyed my time at the university and appreciated CSU for helping the teens in the city during that time.

Chicago State is the only public four-year university on the South Side, and for the last half century, a cornerstone of higher education for many Black Chicagoans, including myself and many family members. Founded in 1867 as the Cook County Normal School, a teacher’s college, the school was originally in Englewood and has changed names, locations, and purpose more than once since then. It became Chicago State University in 1971 and moved to its current location in Roseland the following year. As the student population became majority Black, the school added an African-American Studies program, and its first African-American president, Benjamin Alexander, pushed for the university to promote multiculturalism. In 1990, CSU opened the Gwendolyn Brooks Center for Black Literature and Creative Writing in honor of Brooks, who taught at CSU for over a decade. 

CSU is an important institution in my family. My godmother graduated from Chicago State back when it was named Chicago Teachers College and went on to teach home economics for CPS for over thirty years. My sister Veronica graduated from Chicago State in 1993, and had this to say about it: “CSU was a godsend for me. After five years of floundering between [colleges and universities], I discovered Chicago State. It was a school close to my home and I could continue to work while I attended school…With a forty-hour workweek, grants and student loans, the school was very affordable. CSU gave me support in classes that were a challenge for me, math and statistics. I even found a part-time job on campus as a tutor to students who struggled in English and writing.”

She went on to say, “I enjoyed the atmosphere being on a mostly African-American campus. My classes had students of various ages. We all seemed to have the same goal in mind and that was to graduate. And to obtain a job in their chosen field. CSU was a great experience for me.”

For my niece Geneva, who was trying to finish her education, CSU was the only school that was affordable, close by, and offered a degree program that would benefit her academically and line up with her schedule. She enrolled in the Individual Curriculum adult education program which is a nontraditional degree program and graduated in May 2021. “The professors are great and knowledgeable about their subjects. And they are willing to give you extra help if necessary. Many instructors had an open door policy about office hours. You can come and ask questions and get the answers you need.”

In addition to the many traditional offerings of a university, CSU has a wide variety of programs to meet your needs. Take the Options program: it offers continuing education courses for adults and children, from business to exercise. The Rise Academy is a new program they have for college freshmen. Once a student applies and is accepted, each student will receive free tuition, fees, and textbooks. In addition, a free laptop will be provided for them as well, and each student will have an advisor to assist them academically. 

Chicago State University is a community institution that is committed to assisting students to succeed academically and in life.

Chicago State University, 9501 S. King Dr. Visit or call (773) 995-2000 for more information.

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