"I'm here to share that the United States Department of Education just named Walter R. Sundling Junior High School as a 2021 National Blue Ribbon School. Congratulations!" US Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona said Tuesday while visiting Illinois.
After delivering good news to students and teachers in suburban Palatine, Cardona visited the South Side's Chicago State University.
It is a campus that has faced a series of challenges, including a big decline in the number of men studying there. It turns out, that is a growing national problem.
When the US Education Secretary joined Mayor Lori Lightfoot for a roundtable discussion with students at Chicago State, one of the college's relatively rare male enrollees told of his experience in the Chicago Public Schools.
"As a minority, there isn't a lot of male teachers," Cardona said.
And although the roundtable featured equal numbers of male and female students, barely one-fourth of Chicago State's students are men. It's an extreme example of a nationwide trend made much worse by the pandemic, when men have reportedly dropped out of college at a rate seven times higher than women. Many may never return to a classroom.
"Our Black and brown males, in particular, who maybe are not coming back at the same rate," Cardona said.
In fact, one recent study that controlled for income levels found fewer white men enrolled in higher education than men of color.
An official at Chicago State said the university's pharmaceutical program does offer internships with big corporations such as Walgreens and CVS, offering the kind of links to specific future jobs that Secretary Cardona suggests young men want.
"To re-engage students that maybe during the pandemic left or felt like college wasn't for them … to re-connect our programs with the employment needs that are out there. And to really target our males," Cardona said.
At Chicago State University, only 28% of students are men; 72% are women.