The Chicago Star Scholarship will enroll students in a college system that’s undergoing a welcome retooling. Each campus focuses on a job sector and collaborates with local employers so students are ready for specific careers upon graduation. Executives from area companies help shape curricula so students gain vital skills. Funneling more high-achieving students into those programs via the scholarship program will churn out more trained workers to take specialized jobs in health care, information technology and other fields.

The City Colleges system also partners with a number of local universities to send students on a track to complete a bachelor’s degree.

We can see potential pitfalls for this scholarship plan. If incoming students aren’t prepared for college-level work, the financial burden for remedial education could torpedo the program. If incoming students aren’t motivated to complete a two-year course of education or move on to a four-year degree, they’ll waste their own time and public resources. City Colleges will have to be disciplined about who qualifies for these scholarships.

So there’s a risk in this idea. There’s also the potential for immense reward: a better-educated, better-motivated, ready-to-work Chicago.

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