Good morning! The spring semester is in full swing, and so are activities, legislative issues and a number of programs that I'd like to share with you.
As you probably know, the Dallas County Promise program has launched, and its first deadline – to sign a college pledge – came and went on Jan. 31. This free tuition program, funded by the DCCCD Foundation, is a last-dollar scholarship for high school students who may not have considered college as a viable option.
Dallas County Promise isn't just about a scholarship or free tuition. The goal of the program is to transform schools and communities.
The first cohort of students from 31 Dallas ISD early college high schools or collegiate academies will start school with us this fall. First, however, they will need to complete their FAFSA or TASFA forms; apply to a DCCCD college; and enroll.
I'm excited to report that 96 percent of the eligible students in those 31 schools signed a Dallas County Promise pledge.
I believe that's remarkable for a new program. The next big challenge for them, as I mentioned, will be completing those FAFSA or TASFA forms. That's a hurdle which students often don't overcome. However, the Dallas County Promise staff – along with our own colleges – will help them achieve that goal.
You may have seen that the program held its first student leadership summit at Cedar Valley College this month. Civil rights activist Fred Gray talked to Promise and PTK students about his experiences. He encouraged our prospective and current students to be pro-active and to continue their education.
Dallas County Promise is off to a great start. We should be proud that DCCCD – along with its K-12, business and university partners – is taking the lead in this program, which also aligns education with job and workforce needs in the Dallas-Fort Worth area.
Higher education continues to be prominent nationally, too, as Congress – the Senate, in particular – begins discussing the fate of DACA students across the country.
Last week, I sent a letter to key national legislators, asking them to act immediately and pass permanent bipartisan legislation that protects the status of individuals in the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program.
I also shared with them that Texas has the second-largest DACA population and that the Dallas-Fort Worth area is home to the most DACA recipients – approximately 36,000. All seven of our colleges are Hispanic Serving Institutions, and we currently are educating about 2,000 DACA students for the workforce.
These talented, young DACA individuals contribute so much to our classrooms, campuses and communities, and that's why we need to give ALL students – including DACA students – every chance we can to succeed.
Last week, four DCCCD students attended the National Legislative Summit in Washington, D.C., as we do every year. The three-day visit gives them a chance to share their stories with our U.S. Senators and Representatives.
As always, they made us proud. They stressed the value of their education, and they also discussed Pell grants, federal financial aid and DACA.
I enjoyed those meetings with our students and elected officials, including Senator John Cornyn; Representatives Marc Veasey and Pete Sessions; and Kathleen Smith, who serves as deputy chief operating officer for federal student aid.
They are our best representatives. Dr. Justin Lonon, Isaac Faz and Trustee Monica Lira Bravo joined us, too. My thanks go to our students for their preparation and dedication:
On behalf of our college district, I recently was asked to testify before members of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee in late January.
I discussed the benefits of competency-based education, and I also told members about our success with dual credit enrollment – particularly in our early college high schools and collegiate academies.
I mentioned to the committee that our dual-enrollment students are not fully counted toward our graduation and completion rates.
As a district, we also would like students to be able to use Pell grants for short-term career and education programs – a provision that the House education committee has included in its bill to reauthorize the Higher Education Act.
That provision would help students become skilled workers, and it would help employers hire a workforce that has the skills they need, too.
Back home in Texas, members of our DCCCD board of trustees recently toured North Lake College.
They will visit every college this year as each president shares his or her master plan with them. The visits will provide trustees with visuals that relate directly to those plans. Their support is critical to our success.
And, as you know, I have visited every college this spring to share updates about DCCCD's higher education network as we move forward building those partnerships that help our students.
Next month, our colleges and locations are planning professional development days that will benefit all employees. I encourage you to participate and to learn new skills and share ideas during those programs.
I also encourage you to submit a proposal for a presentation during our district's annual Conference Day in August. The more you interact and share ideas, the better we are as a district, serving our students and each other. That deadline for proposals is coming up quickly – Feb. 28.
In the meantime ... thanks for everything you do to help our students learn, succeed and grow. We'll talk again soon!