College Access

How the Dallas County Promise Uses the Cloud to Get Results on the Ground

What an Education Cloud Keynote at Dreamforce Has To Do With College Completion.

24 September 2018

Joe May, Chancellor of the Dallas County Community College District, and Mark Flanagan, Director, IT, Innovation, and Solutions for the Dallas County Promise, are presenting the Education Cloud Keynote at Dreamforce 18, the largest technology conference in the world. The keynote will focus on how the Dallas County Promise is leveraging cloud computing to improve outcomes for high school graduates across the county, and how to replicate these best practices nationwide.

The Dallas County Promise is a coalition of school districts, colleges, universities, and community stakeholders working together to provide high school seniors with a tuition-free pathway to a postsecondary credential. By completing the Promise Pledge, the FAFSA or TASFA, and the Apply Texas common application, students at participating high schools across Dallas County receive a last-dollar scholarship at any school in the Dallas County Community College District.  Furthermore, students completing with their associate from DCCCD, or a DISD collegiate academy, are then ensured an additional last-dollar scholarship to UNT Dallas, and the chance to apply for a similar opportunity in a growing number of participating universities.

But the Dallas County Promise is doing more than just providing the pathway; team members are also guiding students every step of the process.  Text messages are sent to remind students and families of important deadlines. Support is provided to the expert college counselors dealing with huge workloads.  And all Promise Scholars are partnered with a  success coach upon entering a Promise partner institution..

As you might imagine, all of this work requires an enormous, detailed technical infrastructure.  And that’s where Mark Flanagan and Salesforce CRM come in. CRM usually stands for Customer Relationship Management, but Dallas County Promise team members like to think of it as “College Readiness Management.”  The service provides detailed spreadsheets on each participating high school senior, giving important information on the status of their applications.

“We discovered,” says Flanagan, “that we are able to identify potential challenges early and intervene to help remove roadblocks and implement systemic changes for them and those who will follow.”  One of these “systemic changes” involved the actionability of data. Prior to the Promise CRM, campus staff were only able to see information on students that had completed tasks, but did not have a way to see which students from their roster needed support. Instead of taking time to pair rosters with their various reports to see who needs support, the Promise CRM saves college advisors hours each week that can be better dedicated to directly supporting students..

And, according to Flanagan, this is only the beginning. “As the Promise expands to serve our second cohort of 16,000 high school seniors at 43 high schools from 10 school districts across Dallas County, we are preparing to launch a host of new services and enhancements this year aimed at improving the students’ experience.  We are truly excited about the development of a Promise App to empower students to track their own step-by-step Promise journey supported by an intuitive and engaging user experience.”

The first year of the Dallas County Promise has resulted in fall enrollment at DCCCD and UNT Dallas being up a collective 35% year-over-year across the Promise’s 31 pilot high schools, an early indicator of the impact an effort like this can have. 

From reports to apps and beyond, Commit is finding unique ways to utilize new technology to give our kids a better chance at success.  With this week’s presentation at Dreamforce, we may see the rest of the tech and education community catch on.