Plans are underway for a Chicago State University campus on the West Side, but specific details about the project have yet to be released.
The extension school will be built with a $40 million state grant spearheaded by then-state Sen. Rickey Hendon (5th) and Sen. Kimberly Lightford (4th), who secured the funding in 2009.
Chicago State University is seeking proposals until June 26 from qualified firms for a “market validation and financial feasibility study” for the West Side campus.
The proposals will help the school determine the best location for the campus and which courses and programs are in demand on the West Side.
Sabrina Land, director of the office of marketing and community relations for Chicago State University, said the school is expected to approve a site and release details about course offerings by fall 2013.
The preferred boundaries for the location of the campus include Roosevelt Road to the south, North Avenue to the north, Western Avenue on the east and Austin Avenue on the west. The university is looking at the Austin, Lawndale and Garfield Park neighborhoods.
State Rep. La Shawn Ford (8th), an advocate for the West Side campus, said he’d like to see the campus used as an urban, behavioral health school.
“If Chicago State really wanted to come in and deal with urban issues, they could rally take charge of some of the social ills on the West Side,” he said.
If any university was going to tackle the West Side, “no one could do it better than Chicago State University,” Ford said.
“They have a great psychology program and legal department,” he said. “In Austin, we have a lot of people with backgrounds who need to learn how to get their backgrounds expunged and understand the law.”
Ford added that Chicago State University and non-profits in the area could work together to build a stronger community.
Land, who grew up in Austin, said it’s important for Chicago State University to work with West Side public schools and local organizations to inform students and community members that the school is another option for public education.
Having a campus on the West Side will make that job easier, she said.
“Once we are on the West Side, we’ll get a lot more West Side residents interested in Chicago State,” Land said.
The $40 million state grant for the project, although controversial, was part of a public works program that Gov. Pat Quinn signed into law three years ago.
The Chicago Tribune reported shortly after the grant was approved that Frank Pogue, Chicago State University’s interim president for the 2008-2009 academic year, was not informed on the extension campus, and it was the idea of of legislators, not educators.
But that’s not a concern anymore, said one West Side community advocate.
Ford appointed Melissa Williams, criminal justice committee chairwoman of the NAACP’s Westside Branch, to sit on the school’s site selection subcommittee to help oversee the project.
Others on the subcommittee include Lightford, Ford, community stakeholders and representatives from the university.
Williams said there hasn’t been any pushback for the project now that it’s moving forward and there’s available funding.
“Folks from West Side and at Chicago State are working together to make this thing happen,” Williams said.
Land said it’s not clear how much or if any of the state grant has been doled out to the school.
Lightford, who Land said is one of the key legislators “out there trying to push to get us the resource we need to build the campus,” was unavailable for comment. Former Sen. Hendon, who resigned from his seat in February of 2011, could not be located for comment.
Once built, Williams said the West Side campus is a chance for students in the area to go to “a real four-year school,” and it’s also an “economical” option for them.
“Chicago State University understands the Chicago Public School system and gives (students) the system they need to be up to par in an university setting,” Williams said. “Chicago State will give them a chance for a real higher education, and it’s in our neighborhood.”
As for the location, it seems completely obvious to me: the former Brach Candy factory. A huge complex that could easily be recycled – stripped to its frame and remodeled – in a prime location along a major street (with Green Line stop). A faster, cheaper and greener approach. Once the CSU-West campus is up an running, perhaps Metra could be persuaded to develop a CSU station on their adjacent rail line as well.
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Chicago State University is over-rated. This school had inferior graduation rates for years. I believe the only reason this school receive the funding for a West Side campus is because of the retired Emil Jones. I think Northeastern Illinois University would’ve been a better choice. Nonetheless, it’s great to see an extension of higher education (learning).