Of the 19,000 economically disadvantaged Dallas County 8th graders in 2006, less than 10% went on to complete a college degree six years after high school graduation, by 2016. Community leaders agreed they needed to find a way to do better.
Two years ago, a delegation from Dallas visited Tennessee to learn about the Tennessee Promise Scholarship program. Partners from Dallas County Community College Foundation, United Way of Metropolitan Dallas, and Commit Partnership came home and launched Dallas County Promise.
The success of the Tennessee program coincided with the development of the National College Promise Campaign to build broad public support for funding the first two years of higher education for hard-working students, starting with community colleges. There are currently over 200 promise models across the country.
Managing Director of the Dallas County Promise, Eric Ban explained that students get free community college tuition and a success coach beginning during a student’s high school senior year and continue through college completion. Textbooks stipends are available for students with a 2.5 GPA or better who demonstrate financial need. Transfer scholarships are available to UNT Dallas and SMU, with more universities coming on board soon.
Dallas County Promise is working with 9,300 seniors in 31 high schools in 7 school districts—a population larger than eight states. Almost all of the students have signed up. The campaign has boosted completion of financial aid forms and access to federal aid.
Dallas County Promise received a $3 million grant from JPMorgan Chase to ensure that free college programs lead to a more robust North Texas middle-skill workforce.