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There are 675 public schools, 394 private schools, 83 colleges, and 88 libraries in Chicago. Chicago Public Schools (CPS) is the governing body of the school district that contains over 600 public elementary and high schools citywide, including several selective-admission magnet schools. There are 9 selective enrollment high schools in the Chicago Public Schools. They are designed to meet the needs of Chicago’s most academically advanced students. The schools offer a rigorous curriculum with mainly honors and Advanced Placement (AP) courses. Northside College Preparatory High School is ranked number one in the city of Chicago. Walter Payton College Prep High School is ranked number two. The Chicago high school rankings are determined by the average test scores on state achievement tests.] The oldest magnet school in the City of Chicago, Whitney M. Young Magnet High School, was opened in 1975, and was attended by the First Lady of the United States, Michelle Obama. The district, with an enrollment exceeding 400,000 students (2005 stat.), ranks as the third largest in the US

Chicago's private schools are largely Catholic and Lutheran schools. The Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Chicago operates the city's Catholic schools, including the Jesuit preparatory schools. Some of the more prominent Catholic schools are St. Rita of Cascia High School, De La Salle Institute, Gordon Technical High School, Cristo Rey Jesuit High School, Brother Rice High School, St. Ignatius College Preparatory School, St. Scholastica Academy, Mount Carmel High School, Mother McAuley Liberal Arts High School, Marist High School, St. Patrick High School, Maria High School and Resurrection High School. In addition to Chicago's network of 32 Lutheran schools, there are also several private schools run by other denominations and faiths, such as the Ida Crown Jewish Academy in West Ridge. Additionally, a number of private schools are run in a completely secular educational environment, such as the Latin School of Chicago, the University of Chicago Laboratory Schools in Hyde Park, the Francis W. Parker School, the Chicago City Day School in Lake View, the Feltre School in River North and the Morgan Park Academy. Chicago is also home of the private Chicago Academy for the Arts, a high school focused on six different categories of the arts, such as Media Arts, Visual Arts, Music, Dance, Musical Theatre and Theatre.

The Chicago Public Library system operates 79 public libraries including the central library, two regional libraries, and numerous branches distributed throughout the city.

The University of Chicago, as seen from the Midway PlaisanceSince the 1850s, Chicago has been a world center of higher education and research with several universities that are in the city proper or in the immediate environs. These institutions consistently rank among the top "National Universities" in the United States, as determined by U.S. News & World Report. Top universities in Chicago are: The University of Chicago; Northwestern University; Loyola University Chicago; DePaul University; Illinois Institute of Technology; and University of Illinois at Chicago. Other notable schools include: Chicago State University; the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, the Illinois Institute of Art - Chicago; East–West University; National-Louis University; North Park University; Northeastern Illinois University; Columbia College Chicago; Robert Morris University; Roosevelt University; Saint Xavier University; and Rush University.

William Rainey Harper, the first president of the University of Chicago, was instrumental in the creation of the junior college concept, establishing nearby Joliet Junior College as the first in the nation in 1901.[ His legacy continues with the multiple community colleges in the Chicago proper, including the seven City Colleges of Chicago, Richard J. Daley College, Kennedy–King College, Malcolm X College, Olive–Harvey College, Harry S Truman College, Harold Washington College and Wilbur Wright College, in addition to the privately held MacCormac College.

Chicago proper also has a large concentration of graduate schools, seminaries and theological schools such as the Adler School of Professional Psychology, The Chicago School of Professional Psychology, the Catholic Theological Union, Moody Bible Institute and the University of Chicago Divinity School.

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