By CHARITY CHUKWU The Dallas Examiner
Dallas County businesses have been faced with two huge challenges. One challenge was a talent gap due to low post-secondary school completion rates. The other was a lack of diversity in higher management, according to data from Commit, a collective of over 200 partners who serve to make a positive impact on the county.
In Texas, 65% of jobs require post-secondary training. However, in 2017, just over 18,000 students – 73% of graduating high school students in Dallas County – were not completing college within six years, mainly due to financial barriers, the data revealed. This proved to be an obstacle for employers who needed to find essential talent in critical, higher-level positions. Meanwhile students entering the workforce were unable to access jobs with a living wage.
Dallas County Promise was created to address these issues. By linking high school seniors to connections in college and beyond, students received more opportunities to develop the qualifications needed to succeed in the workforce. The program also aimed to make higher education more accessible by helping students perceive it as more affordable.
Creating a partnership
In 2017, the Commit Partnership and Dallas College – formerly the Dallas County Community College District – created DCP in collaboration with local school districts and colleges with the main focus of accessing underutilized state and federal funding to support students. The program helped students complete their FAFSA, ensuring that they were considered for federal financial aide such as Pell Grants as well as supplying “last dollar” funding to fill any gaps in tuition costs.
In addition, DCP set a pathway for students to earn a living wage by ensuring their scholars understood the necessary skills needed to enter the local workforce with internships and job shadowing. This, along with mentoring support and student data tracking, led to increased graduation rates and job attainment in high demand fields, Commit reported.
Investment and impact
In 2018, Global Philanthropy provided a $3 million, 3-year grant to the Commit Partnership in support of DCP as part of the New Skills for Youth initiative in which JPMorgan Chase funding supported the staff and systems build of the program but did not fund student scholarships. The grant aimed to provide 15,000 local low-income students with the support and resources needed to earn post-secondary workforce credentials aligned to the region’s job opportunities.
The funding also helped DCP to develop technology infrastructure that sent real-time data to advisers so they could better manage their student portfolios and give campus principal and district leaders an overview of where students stand in their college and career advisement process. Moreover, students created digital wallets to regularly access their credentials and transmit them directly to institutions of higher education. This allowed scholars to be aware of their progress and self-advocate for themselves in case there was missing documentation or information or an approaching deadline.
Initially, DCP was launched with Dallas College, providing last dollar scholarships to 9,000 seniors from 31 high schools. Since then, it has expanded to provide similar offerings in partnership with nine universities and includes 69 high schools educating 25,000 seniors.
As a result, participating high schools have seen an 81% FAFSA/TASFA completion rate with enrollment and financial aid submission rates outperforming the state average by 7%, according to research collected by the Commit Partnership. More than 2,500 students enrolled in college than projected while students who did not seek college as an option were still given alternatives to high-quality career paths.
In 2018, approximately 80% of the first Promise cohort were considered economically disadvantaged, according to data gathered from the program. It showed that, in that group, 2,895 students enrolled in Dallas College in that fall semester – 65% increase from 2017 – and 617 students earned their degrees in four years, by 2022 – increasing 80% from 2021.
Outside the Dallas metropolitan area, DCP has replicated the model across 12 regions in Texas. With the data provided from the program, legislation was passed to secure $1.6 billion in new funds to help districts prepare students for college and mandate FASFA completion as a graduation requirement for high school seniors, as detailed by the Texas Education Agency.
Reaping the benefits
As a prime investor, Chase has done due diligence to capitalize on the success of the program. By providing internships at partnering colleges and universities, they were able to see large increase in qualified and diverse candidates. CEO of Chase Jamie Dimon could personally attest to spike and spoke about the journey.
“It was just about looking at all the numbers in diversity, and we were doing a very good job going Asian, Hispanic, LGBT, but not a very good job going Black,” Dimon admitted. “There was just that, so we set a separate effort in a big company to make something separate that actually works. And we put people where that was their only job, increasing Black EDs [executive directors] and MDs [managing directors], and they’re up 50 or 60% since then. So it works.”
Through the bank’s Advancing Black Pathways program, which invests in helping Black people make gains in three key areas: education, careers and wealth, Dimon emphasized the importance of follow through when it came to retaining executives at Chase.
“Track each one. Are they on track are they not on track? What do the need to do? Attach it to retention and recruitment and stuff like that. Then we expanded that to outside the company. So we have Advancing Black Pathways to outside the company helping other Black leaders and entrepreneurs. So it works; it takes time and effort, and it works,” he stated.
Evelyna Rosario is a 2020 graduate of Paul Quinn College who majored in business fundraising and philanthropy. During her senior year, the college’s relationship with Chase expanded, giving her the opportunity to intern with the company. She currently works in its Diversity, Equity and Inclusion division.
When Rosario saw the niche position open, she jumped at the opportunity, since it aligned with her interests. As an Afro-Latino, she also saw it as an opportunity to help others from similar backgrounds advance.
“It was something that I truly had an interest and passion towards and because of that I’m able to kind of replicate the opportunities presented to me as an intern to even more people today. So I think that’s one of my favorite parts about it is sometimes I get to interact with other interns in our fellowship program and things like that,” she expressed. “When we talk about building wealth and eradicating poverty, we do that, and it’s exemplified here by offering high-income earning jobs to these students and giving them the opportunity to thrive.”