College advisors from Cedar Hill ISD, DeSoto ISD, Grand Prairie ISD, Education is Freedom, and Academic Success Program came together as an Impact & Improvement Network to strengthen their continuous improvement skills and impact postsecondary enrollment through growing the number of seniors completing FAFSA applications. Communities achieve results more quickly when they have a chance to work together and learn from each other. Collectively, the districts participating helped 1,686 seniors complete FAFSA applications by July 1, 2017. This represents a collective 63% FAFSA completion rate (compared to a 55% completion rate by non-participating districts) and is up from 48% last year. True continuous improvement means you are tracking the data, identifying whether or not an intervention was successful or not and folding that information back into what you do. The Impact & Improvement Network participants shifted their use of FAFSA data from reporting to identifying practices and strategies that move outcomes. In partnership with Commit!'s postsecondary team, participants practiced: Identifying which step in the financial aid process causes themost challenges for the most students using their experience and student and parent input Refining strategies to help students overcome those challenges Charting FAFSA data bi-weekly to see how effective their strategies were Actively adjusting practices based on strategy efficacy Those who attended the Dallas County College Completion Alignment Council meeting on August 30, 2017 collaborated on effective FAFSA/TASFA completion practices with participants and college advisors. The meeting included a FAFSA/TASFA Showcase with resources, tools, and an "effective practice" gallery walk from ocal campuses with high year-over-year growth in FAFSA completion rates. The Alignment Council meeting also included space to learn and discuss effective practices for supporting DREAMer/DACAmented students from local college bound advisor, Ann Marano, and the North Texas Dream Team.
Dallas ISD and DCCCD Early College High School Expansion: A Focus on Postsecondary Access and Completion
Some could say that Dallas County is truly a “tale of two counties." While growth in jobs and housing values have been in top rankings nationally, Dallas County leads Texas’ five largest counties in both the number of adults with less than a high school degree (23%) and those with some college experience but no diploma (20%). The underinvestment in substantial portions of our population is hindering the economic growth of our community while contributing to a society of “haves and have nots.” More is needed to reach the Partnership’s 60x30 Texas state goal, that 60% of adults ages 25-34 (who are youth aged 11-20 now) have a postsecondary credential or degree by 2030. However, for the approximately 158,000 students in the Dallas Independent School District (“DISD”), the outlook for postsecondary and career success will shortly be brighter given the district’s recent announcement to substantially increase its early college offerings. In partnership with Dallas County Community College District (“DCCCD”), DISD recently announced a plan to strategically expand its Early College high school offerings to eight high schools, serving up to 400 students per school or 3,200 in total…targeting schools where postsecondary completion rates have been well below the County and District averages. Early College Best Practices – What Gets Results? It is well known that Early College programs offer a unique opportunity for students not only to graduate high school with a high school diploma but also with an Associate Degree, dramatically reducing the cost and barriers to higher education access while increasing the likelihood a student can complete a four-year degree. A strong relationship with a university partner is a key component for this success, but equally important are the systems and strategies in place at each early college campus. They include: Professional development for educators focused on the integration of the Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills (TEKS) and the Texas College Readiness Standards. Smaller learning environments coupled with academic and emotional support systems designed to foster student success. Clear curricular pathways and coursework which explicitly teaches study skills and directs students toward the completion of career certification and/or an Associate’s degree. Sustainable funding that braids together community college and ISD sources. The Data Behind the Eight New Early College Programs in DISD: The overall college enrollment and six-year completion rates for high school graduates of Dallas County public high schools is 59% and 28%, respectively, reflecting a troubling 3% and 2% decline, respectively, from last year’s report. Dallas ISD bucked the recent trend by slightly increasing its six-year completion rate slightly for the most recent class reported (H.S. Class of 2009) but still trails the region overall at 21%. One of Dallas ISD's outliers has been its early college high school programs, which reflect an estimated 37% six-year college completion rate at Garza ECHS and Lassiter Middle College*. These programs allow a student to graduate with both a High School degree and an Associate Degree at no cost to the student, significantly reducing the cost of their higher [...]
This summer we recapped the Partnership’s successful efforts to boost financial aid applications – 650 more Dallas County seniors completed the FAFSA by Texas’ March 2015 priority deadline, ensuring that more low-income students receive aid to support college enrollment. However, the summer after high school graduation can also be difficult to navigate, as graduates don’t have access to their counselor and are not yet connected to a college campus. To address this “summer melt” period, four school districts, 11 colleges and ATT teamed up to launch a texting service based on national research that allowed students to receive reminders on college enrollment milestones and text back to counselors and higher ed staff. While enrollment results won’t be available until early 2016, here are some early findings and lessons learned: Early Findings: • 1,037 high school seniors opted in to participate • Over 70% of participating students engaged in at least three conversations via text message as a result of the college reminder program • 81% of the respondents found the text reminders to be helpful or incredibly helpful Lessons Learned: • Opening up texting communication channels allowed students a safe place to ask questions of their high school counselors and college staff. • Students continue to express trepidation about paying for college, which reinforces the Partnership’s focus on financial aid help. • As a result of the text message reminders, districts became aware of summer transcript requests as a significant barrier students face when registering for college classes. As one senior class graduates, another now faces the financial aid and enrollment process. Here’s how you can get involved: • Encourage 2016 seniors to sign up for text message reminders! Seniors may opt-in to participate by completing the online form for their district: Dallas ISD, Lancaster ISD, DeSoto ISD, and Grand Prairie ISD. • Nominate high school juniors and seniors and college underclassmen to serve as Student Ambassadors by Oct. 28. Thanks to your nominations last year, we had over 60 students help promote financial aid completion via social media and marketing materials on their campuses. This year we are enhancing this peer-to-peer networking component by including additional college underclassmen. • Visit www.YouCanAffordCollege.org for all the latest events, including free financial aid professional development, community FAFSA/TASFA workshops, and open convenings. Have a college access/success event you’d like help spreading the word on? Email Sarah.Jensen@commit2Dallas.org.
“You can’t go to college.” These words from an admired high school teacher singed Jesse Soto’s confidence. At the time he was undocumented, didn’t have the best grades, and the cost of college seemed too great to overcome. But Jesse had a dream. For many students, the perceived inability to pay for college is the largest barrier to enrolling and completing postsecondary education. Yet last year about 6,000 low-income high school seniors in Dallas County didn’t file a FAFSA, meaning they had no access to state or federal aid to help them go to college. “When you’re asking a junior or senior to start thinking about college, you’re not asking them to fill out an application... you’re asking them to overcome their fears,” shared Jesse during the recent Community Achievement Scorecard Release. Mentors and counselors pushed Jesse through the fear standing between him and his dreams. This year, he graduated from UT Dallas with a degree in Electrical Engineering and began a career as a Telecommunications Engineer at Nokia Networks in Irving. With input from Jesse and other students, the partners of Commit! mobilized to help nearly 700 additional Dallas County seniors overcome their fears and complete financial aid applications by the 2015 state priority deadline compared to 2014. Together, our partners were able to: Assist over 300 families at five community-wide financial aid workshops; Organize more than 100 organizations donating nearly 600 volunteer hours to assist students in filling out their FAFSA/TASFA forms; Build local capacity by bringing in uAspire, a national leader in financial aid advising, to train 90+ counselors, advisors, and afterschool providers; Share information and resources through YouCanAffordCollege.org, a website for counselors and families that received over 6,000 visitors over three months; Send personalized text messages that offered support to nearly 1,000 seniors and broke down college enrollment tasks into smaller steps; Create grassroots advocacy by supporting 100 high school juniors and seniors to serve as peer-to-peer campus ambassadors for college affordability; and Develop broad college affordability awareness through news coverage on Fox, Univision, KERA, Texas NPR and neighborhood papers like the Dallas Examiner and the Advocate. We are proud to play a part in all the work done by our Postsecondary Attainment partners and are looking forward to 2015-16!
Molina High School, in the heart of the Oak Cliff neighborhood, is home to 2,200 students—mostly Latino—and many dedicated educators. On Saturday, February 21, the building opened its doors to the community and was abuzz with energy from hundreds of students from all grades and their parents learning about the college process. For the past four years, Molina has emphasized financial aid applications as a huge priority for their senior students. Joining forces with the Commit! Partnership, United Way of Metropolitan Dallas, and a host of college advising organizations and corporate volunteer, Molina was one of six 2015 FAFSA/TASFA workshops open to all North Texas students. Volunteering at Molina was a wonderful experience. As a former college student, I know that the process of applying for financial aid is confusing for anyone, let alone if a student is the first one in their family to navigate the process. The students I encountered were persistent in their desire to forge their own path after high school and their parents were fiercely insistent on their students’ ability to succeed and pursue higher education.
Two weeks ago, Dallas hosted nearly 300 people from across the country, all working to increase college attainment rates as part of Lumina Foundation’s efforts to reach 60% college attainment by 2025. Dallas is one of 75 communities receiving targeted financial and technical assistance to help develop and implement region-specific approaches to reaching local postsecondary goals under the Foundation’s Community Partnership for Attainment. The conference featured community voices from multiple sectors- including Workforce Boards, 2- and 4-year colleges, and regional chambers- coming together to discuss their efforts to reach their local goals. We had a range of sessions, including:
- Building major college access campaigns to help seniors take the necessary steps to enroll in postsecondary education
- Building Pathways to Strong Sub-baccalaureate Credentials that propel students to completion in well-paying jobs requiring credentials such as certificates and Associate’s degrees, including middle-skill STEM
- Mobilizing a Community Partnership Approach to Serve Veterans using systemic strategies for serving veteran students in CPA communities across the country
- Shaping a Culture of Success for Males of Color: The Student African American Brotherhood has created collaborative efforts to increase retention, persistence, and character development among African-American and Latino males. For the complete convening agenda and session presentations, please visit: http://www.luminafoundation.org/strategy-2-community-partnerships