During the last two decades of the 20th century, the City Colleges of Chicago (CCC) went into a kind of death spiral. CCC, a city-operated system that encompasses seven campuses, lost one-quarter of its students between 1985 and 2000, as enrollment dropped from 210,000 to 157,000. Over the next decade, enrollment declined another 30 percent. Chicagoans had good reason to turn away from CCC. According to a 1991 study by researchers from Harvard University, fewer than 1 in 10 CCC students ended up…

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