Promise of a Better Tomorrow: Dallas Program Provides Pathway for High School Graduates

Gelila Negesse, Co-Editor-In-Chief

Conversations about college and post secondary education swarm election debate floors, meetings with counselors and the dinner table for many families across the nation as  tuition costs rise and students wonder if they are able to afford college or even attend at all.

Dallas County has implemented a program in 2017 called Dallas Promise to help battle this problem. Dallas Promise, as described on the Dallas Promise website, provides “last dollar scholarships”  to students who graduate from a Promise high school, a partner high school, with a diploma. 

In short, the program allows students to receive their associate degree from community college partners with the choice to relocate to a partner university after, all for free. 

Karla Garcia, a Dallas Promise associate, worked with the Promise’s parent organization Commit Partnership, a Dallas-based nonprofit, before working with the Promise.

“One of the things I love about the promise is that it democratizes college access,” Garcia said. “If a student wants to take advantage of every opportunity, it’s available. There is no more ‘I can’t go to college.’ The conversation is now, ‘where should I go for college?”

Garcia sees the importance that Promise holds to the 57 partnered high schools in the fourth largest metroplex in the country.

“For students like me, a first-generation low-income Latina college graduate, education becomes your pathway to a living-wage,” Garcia said. “The bet that we’re making on higher education is it’ll support more students so they can support themselves, and in today’s economy a higher education is that largest guarantee.” 

Elizabeth Piland, a freshman at Richland College, enrolled in Dallas Promise and is planning on transitioning to UNT of Dallas. 

“[Dallas Promise] allowed me to take care of my basic college credit and help me afford college,” Piland said. “I don’t know how I could have afforded it otherwise.”

The program, however, is still fairly new to the Garland Independent School District. Jorge Romero, a former student at North Garland High School, is now at Richland College and wishes that the program had been offered earlier.

“It would have been very beneficial for me. I have to pay $3000 for my classes,” Romero said. “I currently don’t take full-time classes, because I have to work full time. If I had the Dallas Promise, I wouldn’t work so much, and I could probably take full-time classes all year long.”

Former high school teacher Phillip Fabian, now a manager at Dallas County Promise, realized many of his students’ dreams of life after  high school were often cut due to anxieties over costs.

“Here, at Dallas County Promise we really see this as  a conversation starter,” Fabian said. “There are many students who have a college career plan before Dallas County Promise, and we want those students to continue on. But even kids who didn’t think there was a plan for them, Dallas County Promise opens that door. ” 

The deadline to take the Dallas County Pledge for financial aid is March 6, and enrollment begins July 31.