By Ariel Graham
The Class of 2019 graduating from MacArthur High School and Singley Academy will be able to attend college tuition-free, thanks to the Dallas County Promise.
The Dallas County Promise is a unique partnership between school districts, colleges, universities, and communities designed to increase college completion throughout Dallas County. The promise states all high school seniors participating in the program, regardless of their GPA or their financial need, will have the opportunity to earn a full-tuition scholarships to any Dallas County Community College District (DCCCD) school, a success coach mentor, and access to additional transfer scholarships to attend the program’s partner four-year universities: University of North Texas at Dallas and Southern Methodist University.
Jennifer Todd, director of guidance counseling and college readiness for Irving ISD, said this new program helps give students the tools and opportunities they need to not only complete their Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) and get into college, but to complete their college education as well.
“The Dallas County Promise Program is really wanting to make sure students in the Dallas area are not only getting accepted into college, but they are also completing college,” Todd said. “The program provides support to districts and works with school districts to help those districts increase their FAFSA completion rate. It provides support to those students who are part of the Dallas County Promise to work with them, starting their senior year, through their college experience, so our students finish college once they start.”
Dallas County Promise originally began as a pilot program in the fall of 2017 with 31 high schools in Dallas County.
The program, which includes MacArthur High School and Singley Academy, celebrated its official launch at Adamson High School in Dallas on May 2. Dr. Jill Biden, Second Lady of the United States during the Obama Administration and a college professor herself, was spoke at the kickoff.
“I’ve seen it time and time again in my own classroom: the chance to go to college is life-changing for students and their families,” Biden said. “With a dynamic scholarship, mentoring and support from partnering organizations, the Dallas County Promise is giving local students the chance to attend school, complete their education, expand their career choices, and build lives that are more financially secure. That’s not just good for them, it strengthens the Dallas workforce and helps build a more prosperous economy for all of North Texas. With today’s launch, I hope communities throughout the state and the nation will be inspired to create a program of their own.”
Dr. Joe May, chancellor of the Dallas County Community College District, spoke to the growing need for programs like the Dallas County Promise to help students who, due to financial barriers, may not have gone to college at all.
“Even though Dallas County is one of the fastest growing economic regions in the country, the number of people living in poverty has increased 42 percent over the last 15 years,” May said. “Finishing high school can be a challenge. Going to college, for some, isn’t something they’ve even considered. They don’t have the money for tuition, they have transportation and child care problems, and they may not have enough to eat. Dallas County Promise and its network are determined to remove those barriers.”
At the event, it was announced that two Irving ISD campuses, Jack E. Singley Academy and MacArthur High School, would be joining the program at the start of the 2018-2019 school year. Irving High School and Nimitz High School are not yet included in the program. Todd said Dallas County Promise made the decision as to which schools would be part of the ever-expanding program, and explained how Irving ISD came on board.
“Dallas County Promise made the decision of which schools [joined the program],” Todd said. “They work with several school districts in the Dallas/Fort Worth area, and they made the decisions of which school would be part of Cohort One. Unfortunately, Irving ISD was not selected to be part of Cohort One. However, we started working, reaching out to the organization, developing those relationships with the organization, letting them know how excited we were about the opportunity for our students. And now it was just announced that we were part of Cohort Two.”
In order to qualify for the program, students must complete three deadlines. First, they must complete the Dallas County Promise Pledge by Jan. 31, 2019. Then, they must complete an admissions application to the DCCCD school of their choice and submit their FAFSA by March 15, 2019. Finally, they must complete registration for the fall semester by July 31, 2019. Students will be able to sign the promise starting Oct. 1 of this year, which can be accessed at their website: DallasCountyPromise.org.