The CHANCE program at Northern Illinois University has done important work in its 45 years of existence, and it’s work that should continue.
The program, an acronym for counseling help and assistance necessary for a college education, has helped more than 15,000 people to complete a college education who otherwise might not have been able to do so.
The program has almost 200 “target schools” from around the state. The average ACT score for students at target schools is below 19 and at least 25 percent of students are considered low-income. Students who graduate from these high schools qualify for a special admissions process and receive extra help in college.
Some decry such programs as relics of the Civil Rights Era, saying that they are social engineering that is no longer necessary in 21st century America.
But programs such as CHANCE are still necessary. The adage that it is unfair to expect equality of results without equality of opportunity still holds. Students from target schools certainly face challenges that their peers at better-performing schools do not. They also do not have the same resources available to them. Those from disadvantaged backgrounds who show promise deserve precisely what the program promises – a chance.
Many people who succeed through the CHANCE program are the first in their family to go to college. They are identified based not only on their academic performance, but also on other criteria including drive to succeed, leadership potential, and special talents.
In other words, not just what the statistics say about them, but their potential.
Diversity remains important at public universities in our multi-racial society, and NIU has made great progress in that regard since CHANCE was established in 1969. Before the program began, black students comprised less than 2 percent of the 18,000 students on campus. Today, black students make up 16 percent of all undergraduates, while Hispanic students are another 11 percent.
Education is a key gateway for people seeking to improve their lot in life and pursue their passions. The CHANCE program has helped thousands of people pursue their dreams, and we hope it will help thousands more in the future.