In Dallas, a data-driven program helps advance equity in higher ed

Dallas is a tale of two cities—a hub of financial and economic activity that ranks third in the nation in childhood poverty and last in economic inclusivity. Despite its thriving economy, the city is grappling with spiraling inequality, and the number of people living in poverty in Dallas County has risen swiftly over the past 15 years. Young people are particularly hard hit. Only one in four earns a living wage; and while most (65%) jobs now require a college education, just over half (54%) of high school students enroll in higher education.

That’s why in 2016 the Dallas College Foundation worked with community leaders to design a program focused on more equitable access to higher education. While previous efforts had lifted up the highest-achievers, community leaders now wanted their work to have a broader reach with a focus on high schools serving the highest number of economically disadvantaged students. Local stakeholders came together—colleges, universities, employers and local organizations—and began to look for ways to ensure all students had access to the job market. They called it the Dallas County Promise (Promise).

The goal is to connect with students at every stage in the process as they finish high school and apply to college. And it’s working.

The Promise is one of almost 400 College Promise programs across the US, a scholarship program open to all students at participating high schools. It not only covers tuition costs but also offers high schoolers a success coach to ensure these new college students have the wraparound support they need to succeed. Underpinning the Promise is a constituent relationship management (CRM) solution, powered by Salesforce.org. It forms a crucial link between schools and colleges and gives staff a transparent view of how students are progressing.

The goal is to connect with students at every stage in the process as they finish high school and apply to college. And it’s working. Enrollment in higher ed increased by 6% each of the first two years of the program, with a decrease of 8% in the fall of 2020 following the impact of the pandemic. Dallas faired far better in the pandemic than the 30% decline in college enrollment from high-poverty high schools nationally, as reported by the National Student Clearinghouse.

View the full article in the Chronicle of Higher Education here.


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