Runway 606’s unique educational pathway into the Cyber Tech program includes performance-based admissions, tutoring, mentoring, and other support services to foster college readiness and success.

New Runway 606 initiative from Illinois Institute of Technology, City Colleges of Chicago, and Chicago Public Schools will reduce the time it takes to earn a master’s degree by as much as two years

CHICAGO—March 20, 2024—In a groundbreaking initiative to bridge the educational gap and meet the growing demand for skilled tech professionals in Chicago, Illinois Institute of Technology (Illinois Tech), City Colleges of Chicago (CCC), and Chicago Public Schools (CPS) today launched  Runway 606—the first-of-its-kind program aimed at providing Chicago Public School students with a clear, accelerated pathway to high-demand, well-paying tech careers.

Runway 606 represents a  landmark collaboration agreement between the three Chicago institutions, and with the support of City leadership, to provide specific pathways to tech fields at Illinois Tech while reducing the number of years it takes to go from high school to a master’s degree by up to two years, lowering economic and experiential barriers for Chicago’s talented young people.

Mayor Brandon Johnson said, “Runway 606 is a testament to what we can accomplish when we work together for the betterment of our city and its young people. This program is not just about creating pathways to success; it’s about building a stronger, more resilient Chicago.”

Runway 606 is a collaborative initiative built on a successful cybersecurity-focused pilot program in CPS Early College STE(A)M Schools to offer supported pathways, tutoring, mentoring, and other support services to foster college readiness and success for participating students. While the program is starting with a cybersecurity pathway, the aim is to quickly expand the fast-track pathways beyond cybersecurity into other in-demand tech fields such as computer science and business analytics, and shortly after that, grow to include a wide array of STEM career paths.

“We are honored to join forces with City Colleges of Chicago and Chicago Public Schools to launch Runway 606,” said Illinois Tech President Raj Echambadi. “This collaborative initiative aligns with our mission of providing pathways for Chicago’s talented young people with enhanced access to educational opportunities, resources, and support. Runway 606 will pave the way for CPS students to thrive in the tech industry and fuel their career success.”

After the successful pilot cybersecurity program at CPS Early College STE(A)M schools* with 85 students (42 juniors and 43 seniors) that began in fall 2023, the partner institutions—Illinois Tech, CPS, and CCC—signed a landmark collaboration agreement in December to launch Runway 606 citywide, with the aim of expanding to other in-demand STEM career pathways within a few years.

This fall, juniors and seniors in any CPS school who meet the relevant eligibility criteria can participate in the dual enrollment Runway 606 cybersecurity pathway. 

This pathway sets them on their way to earn their associate’s degree from City Colleges as they graduate from high school or reduce the time to an associate’s degree after high school graduation, and within four years, earn their bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Illinois Tech.

Deputy Mayor for Education Jennifer Johnson emphasized the program’s potential to transform lives and communities. “By making advanced education more accessible and aligned with industry needs, we are opening doors for countless students who represent the future of Chicago’s tech workforce. Through Runway 606, we’re not just addressing the skills gap; we’re actively working to dismantle the barriers that have historically kept underrepresented communities out of the tech industry.”

Cybersecurity jobs are skyrocketing: Runway 606 positions Chicago as a vital source of tech talent

City Colleges of Chicago Chancellor Juan Salgado emphasized the significance of Runway 606 in addressing the educational and skills gaps in the tech industry. “Offering accelerated programs like Runway 606 will help our students achieve their education goals faster and at a lower cost to them and their families, which is critical. This transfer pathway to Illinois Tech will help our students find careers in high-demand fields and support the city’s workforce needs.”

Cybersecurity stands out as a field with enormous potential impact, skyrocketing demand, varied entry points for different skill levels and qualifications, and high salaries. It offers the unique opportunity to elevate social and economic futures in a directly accessible way, and with more than 22,000 jobs listed each year in cybersecurity-related fields in Illinois, more than 500,000 nationwide and average cybersecurity salaries of more than $100,000 per year, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, it represents a path to widespread success and financial stability.

In Chicago alone, cybersecurity jobs increased by more than 70 percent from 2010 to 2024, demonstrating the city’s growing need for skilled tech talent in the industry. With cybersecurity jobs in Chicago on the rise, the program is not just an educational pathway, but also a crucial economic development engine. Cybersecurity Ventures predicts that there will be 3.5 million unfilled cybersecurity jobs globally by 2025, highlighting the urgency and significance of initiatives such as Runway 606.

CPS students in tech fields help grow economic mobility and improve representation in tech fields

CPS CEO Pedro Martinez highlighted the collaboration that has led to this initiative and the program’s role in enhancing diversity in STEM fields.

“We are not only a ‘city that works but a city that works together,’” said CEO Martinez. “Runway 606 presents a unique opportunity to level the playing field and bridge the educational and economic gaps that exist. This initiative provides CPS students with an accessible and accelerated pathway to tech careers, empowering them individually, but also strengthening our city’s talent pool.”

Performance-based admissions and comprehensive support: multiple ramps toward success

Runway 606’s unique features include performance-based admissions, tutoring, mentoring, and other support services to foster college readiness and success. Runway 606 is building a community of support for CPS students to address critical skills gaps in math and science preparation and to destigmatize asking for help along their educational journeys. In the first pathway launched, cybersecurity, there are already a wide array of “on ramps,” or entry points, to the pathway as well as a plethora of avenues for student success in addition to the core high school-to-master’s track. This includes an associate’s degree, certifications, credentials, and a wealth of professional experience to build students’ resumes.

Looking ahead, Runway 606 plans to expand beyond cybersecurity to other in-demand tech fields such as computer science and business analytics, followed by a wide array of STEM career paths. With its ambitious goals and collaborative approach, Runway 606 is dedicated to increasing the number of CPS graduates pursuing well-paying, high-demand tech careers while nurturing a diverse and inclusive tech talent pipeline for the future.

Armando Rodriguez, a senior at Sarah E. Goode STEM Academy, has developed a keen interest in cybersecurity since joining the Runway 606 Program.

“No matter who you are or what you’re doing, our lives are based around technology,” says Armando. “This can be scary at times, because people don’t always use it for good. I’m learning that cyber security is the equivalent of locking your doors to protect your house.”

For more information about Runway 606, visit or contact

*The following CPS Early College STE(A)M schools kicked off the pilot: Clark Academic Prep Magnet, Corliss, Crane Medical Prep, Englewood STEM, Goode STEM Academy, Infinity Math Science and Technology, North-Grand, and Solorio Academy.

Illinois Institute of Technology (Illinois Tech)

Based in the global metropolis of Chicago, Illinois Tech was born to liberate the power of collective difference to advance technology and innovation for all. It is the only tech-focused university in the city, and it stands at the crossroads of exploration and invention, advancing the future of Chicago and the world. It offers undergraduate and graduate degrees in engineering, computing, architecture, business, design, science and human sciences, and law. Illinois Tech students are guaranteed access to hands-on experiences, personalized mentorship, and job readiness through the university’s one-of-a-kind Elevate program. Its graduates lead the state and much of the nation in economic prosperity. Its faculty and alumni built the Chicago skyline. And every day in the city’s living lab, Illinois Tech fuels breakthroughs that change lives. Visit

Chicago Public Schools (CPS)

Chicago Public Schools is dedicated to providing a high-quality education to all students, beginning with the District’s free full-day preschool programming for four-year-old scholars and continuing through neighborhood, magnet and selective-enrollment elementary schools that provide a rigorous K-8 education with schools that specialize in the fine arts, world language and culture, dual language, STEM, International Baccalaureate (IB), classical programs, and more. The rising District-wide freshmen-on-track and high school graduation rates reflect the hard work of the CPS community, including families, staff, and students across 635 schools. CPS celebrates the diversity of its more than 322,000 students who cite 182 home languages. Learn more about CPS at and connect with CPS on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and LinkedIn.

City Colleges of Chicago (CCC)

City Colleges of Chicago’s vision is to be recognized as the city’s most accessible higher education engine of socioeconomic mobility and racial equity – empowering all Chicagoans to take part in building a stronger and more just city. Learn more about City Colleges of Chicago at, and to learn more about City Colleges of Chicago 2021-2025 Strategic Plan Framework, visit or click here.