Dallas County Promise Gains National Attention For Innovation In College Access

March 20, 2019

This week at SXSW EDU 2019, innovation in education, student supports, and workforce development take center stage, shaping the national conversation around issues of student engagement, K-12 education reform, and higher education policy. The innovation and success of the College Promise movement, and the emergence of high-quality College Promise programs in Texas, are the focus of one of the panels introducing practitioners and policymakers to the next big thing in education.

“One hundred years ago our country decided to make high school free and accessible for students,” remarked Rosye Cloud, Vice President of the College Promise Campaign. “The College Promise Campaign is an update, an example of modern innovation transforming access to higher education to make sure that our schools and students are keeping pace with the changing 21st century economy.”

Across the country, students and young adults face significant challenges when entering the workforce. There are more than seven million unfilled jobs in the U.S., and 99 percent of new jobs since the Great Recession have been awarded to workers with some college. At the same time, the cost of college tuition and fees have increased by 1120 percent since 1978, and the national student debt crisis now totals over $1.5 trillion.

Across the state of Texas, young adults are struggling with these same barriers as they graduate high school and consider their college and career options. In the Dallas-Fort Worth area, 30 percent of jobs are considered “middle-skill” jobs, meaning they require an Associate’s degree or industry certificate. According to Dr. Joe May, Chancellor of Dallas County Community College District and member of the College Promise Campaign National Advisory Board, “In spite of a booming economy, Dallas County faces an increase in poverty as well… While not everyone needs a four-year degree to find a job that pays a living wage, they do need some college, especially as technology changes the face of the job market. That’s where Dallas County Promise comes in: college completion represents economic opportunity for everyone.”

Recognizing the growing financial burden of college attendance, and the increasing necessity of a college degree or certificate for advancement in the workforce and social mobility, the Dallas County Promise seeks to build a college to career pipeline for graduating high school seniors.

Dallas County Promise works as part of a larger Promise Network to support high school transformation, ease the transition from high school to college, provide wrap-around student services such as success and career coaching, and improve the use of technology for a Career Pathways system to track student progress through higher education, into and through the workforce.

Historically, less than 30 percent of all Dallas County high school graduates complete college within six years, and only 10 percent of economically disadvantaged 8th graders in Dallas County will complete a postsecondary credential within six years. Within its first year, the Dallas County Promise has already begun to transform the college-going culture for its students and show significant results in financial aid completion and college enrollment. Of the first 9,300 high school seniors to participate in the Dallas County Promise, 80 percent of the students were economically disadvantaged, and 90 percent were students of color. 67 percent of students have completed their FAFSA, and Dallas County Community College District has seen a 40 percent increase in enrollment. For the fall of 2019, nearly 16,000 students, 95 percent of high school seniors at the 43 participating high schools in Dallas County, have pledged to pursue higher education through the Dallas County Promise.

By removing the financial barriers to higher education, providing student supports and success coaching, and connecting students with in-demand career pathways, the Dallas County Promise is advancing its goals: 1) to increase the number of students entering and completing college, and 2) to meet Dallas-area employers’ hiring needs by creating streamlined pathways to rewarding jobs for its students. With a focus on equity and workforce engagement, the Dallas County Promise serves as an example of one of the more than 300 innovative College Promise programs nationwide that are transforming the college-to-career pipeline and ultimately shaping their community for the better. Learn more about the Dallas County Promise and other College Promise programs by visiting www.collegepromise.org/.