New language requirement coming to City Colleges

  • By Peter Sachs
  • Staff Writer
  • February 19, 2009 @ 12:00 PM

New students at the City Colleges of Chicago this fall will have one more requirement they’ll have to meet before they can earn their associate of arts degree: two semesters of a foreign language.

The change will make the City Colleges one of only a handful of community college districts in the nation with such a requirement, district officials say.

“We’re trying to make sure that our students are competitive so that if someone has to choose between our student and someone else, they will know that our student is bilingual,” Chancellor Wayne Watson says.

Depending on the campus, students can choose from classes in Spanish, French, Italian, Chinese and Japanese. Students enrolled at one campus will be able to take foreign language courses at another campus if they aren’t available elsewhere, says Keith McCoy, the chairman of the faculty council for all seven colleges.

“We think that our students are better served if they are more ready for the global economy, and we know students who transfer to a four-year institution are often required — at least here in Illinois — to have a least one year of foreign language,” McCoy says.

Current students won’t be affected by the new requirement and won’t have to take foreign language courses to complete their AA, McCoy says. The requirement also doesn’t apply to students working on science degree programs.

The Board of Trustees will vote on the requirement at an upcoming meeting.

Even though they won’t be required to take foreign language classes, several students at Harold Washington College call the new requirement a good addition.

“I think it’s beneficial. America should require that more,” says Jordan Schlife, 24, who is studying history and taking a French class at Harold Washington this semester.

At his high school in Kansas, Schlife says, just one year of foreign language study was required.

“I don’t think I should have made it through high school without learning a foreign language,” he says.

Other students agreed that having several semesters of foreign language studies under their belts would be a good thing.

“It will help you out when you get a job and whatnot,” says 20-year-old communications student David Castilo.

The new requirement won’t affect tuition or increase course loads for new students, McCoy says.

“We were very adamant that we did not want to add any burden academically or financially to our students,” he says.

The AA degree programs require students to take about 62 credit-hours of classes, of which 24 credit-hours are electives the student chooses, either in a specialty or among general interest courses. The foreign language requirement will come out of the elective credit hours, meaning that students won’t see a change in the number of required math, English and social science courses they must take.

“We’re not afraid to raise our standards and to believe in our students to meet those standards,” McCoy says.


Daily News Staff Writer Peter Sachs covers higher education. He can be reached at 773.362.5002, ext. 18