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HWC History

Harold Washington College (HWC) is named after the first African-American Mayor of Chicago and was opened in 1962.   

The college had just 250 students in the first semester. Classes were held on the 11th floor of the former University of Chicago/DePaul Center, eventually occupying six floors as the student population grew. The new school pulled in just enough tuition money to pay the rent.  

In 1982, the college moved from 64 E. Lake St. into new facilities at 30 E. Lake Street. During a commencement address at Loop College in 1984, Mayor Washington spoke about the importance of community:   

“It is from the diversity of city life and the variety of cultures and backgrounds…that we find the common threads that bring us together to form a college community.”  

Mayor Washington had been a strong advocate of education in Chicago and especially City Colleges of Chicago. Within weeks of his untimely death in 1987, the CCC Board of Trustees re-named Loop College to Harold Washington College.    

In 2012, Harold Washington College became the College to Careers hub for Business, Entrepreneurship and Professional Services. New college and industry partnerships were formed, large internship programs developed with downtown businesses, and new certificates and degree programs were created to serve students and our business constituents across the City. HWC is also the Chicago home of the Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses Program that supports local businesses to expand and create more jobs in their communities.  

These new developments added to a long-standing and well-recognized profile of strong liberal arts courses, transfer degrees, and degrees for specific professions, such as child development practitioners, architects and for digital multi-media design.  

In 2013, Harold Washington College received the nationally recognized Council for Higher Education Accreditation Award for Outstanding Institutional Practice in Student Learning Outcomes. This brought HWC national and international attention for our work with students and learning.  

In 2014, Harold Washington was granted approval from the Higher Learning Commission for a consortial agreement to deliver online learning across the whole City College system. Harold Washington College became the City Colleges home for online learning opportunities. Online learning continues to expand as an important learning delivery mode, and by the fall 2017 semester, we were providing 288 online classes to over 4,500 students across the City and beyond.  

In fall of 2017, we revitalized our college mission to reaffirm our commitment to the core values embodied in the work of our namesake mayor and reconnect his legacy to the important work we do today. The majority of HWC students transfer to four-year colleges to continue their academic journey and future success. We are a very small corner of downtown Chicago but are a very busy and vibrant community committed to social change through education.