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Gates Foundation grant will build on their success and help more community colleges better serve students

For immediate release — May 26, 2011

(DALLAS) — Five Texas community colleges are collaborating as part of a national effort to devise and share new approaches to help more young people obtain a degree, certificate or credential. The schools will share a $500,000 planning grant to launch the five-year “Completion by Design” project in Texas.

Participating colleges include Lone Star College System as the managing partner along with Alamo Colleges, Dallas County Community College District/Cedar Valley College, El Paso Community College and South Texas College.

The “Texas Completion by Design” colleges are among those chosen from four states for the national Completion by Design project, which is supported by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. The colleges were selected because of their innovative ideas on improving the completion rates on their campuses. They were picked for the project after a rigorous competition that was announced last October at the White House Summit on Community Colleges.

“We believe that completing college — whether a student earns an associate degree, certificate or other credential — is critical. The Completion by Design project will enable the Dallas County Community College District and other two-year institutions across the United States to boost graduation rates,” said Dr. Wright Lassiter Jr., chancellor. “The state of Texas also has set completion rate goals, so this outstanding program will enable us to assist students as we meet those state higher education mandates.”

Completion by Design aims to build on proven, existing practices already under way at these forward-thinking community colleges that are already working to address the needs of today’s students. They are doing this by focusing on new approaches to areas such as financial aid counseling, course scheduling and advising.

Today, community colleges serve nearly 11 million students, and enrollment has surged as the recession caused many Americans to return for additional training and education. Community colleges also are evolving to serve today’s students, who often are older and work full- or part-time to support families while attending school to obtain a degree or credential.

But too many students never finish. According to recent federal data, just 22 percent of first-time, full-time students in community college graduate in three years. For Hispanics and African-Americans, the rates are even worse, at 17 percent and 14 percent.

In Texas, only 10 percent of seventh-grade Hispanic students complete a college credential within six years after scheduled high school graduation. Seventy-one percent of all Hispanic enrollments in higher education in Texas are in community colleges — and more than half of those leave without a credential.

Solving this problem is important for our students, our economy and our country. A report from the Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce forecasts that, by 2018, 63 percent of jobs will require at least some postsecondary education. The report also shows that, without a dramatic change in course, the labor market will be short 3 million educated workers over the next eight years.

The “Texas Completion by Design” team of colleges, including the Dallas County Community College District/Cedar Valley College, represents more than 235,000 students, nearly one-third of all community college students in Texas. The group will work to transform community college policy and student success initiatives for the state. Phase I consists of a collaborative planning period for representatives from each partner school to review best practices, create a model pathway to completion and design the implementation of the program.

After the implementation plan submitted by the Texas group in April 2012 is approved by the foundation, additional funding would be awarded. Phase II will consist of implementing the plan at a pilot campus at each institution. If positive outcomes are achieved, Phase III will be the scaling and adoption of the program across the other colleges within the Texas team and other community colleges in the state. It is anticipated that all three phases of the Completion by Design grant will take approximately five years to complete.

“We believe that today’s students — particularly low-income students — need smarter, affordable postsecondary options that lead to high-quality outcomes,” said Hilary Pennington, director of education, postsecondary success at the Gates Foundation. “Completion by Design aims to give them that, and we are excited to support the innovative work being conducted by these outstanding colleges.”


About the Dallas County Community College District
DCCCD is the largest undergraduate institution in the state of Texas. The district and its seven individually accredited colleges — Brookhaven, Cedar Valley, Eastfield, El Centro, Mountain View, North Lake and Richland — serve more than 80,000 credit and 25,000 continuing education students each semester. DCCCD also includes five community education campuses that provide access to higher education for historically underserved or fast-growing populations in Dallas County. The district’s top priority is to serve students and support economic development.

About the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation
Guided by the belief that every life has equal value, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation works to help all people lead healthy, productive lives. In developing countries, it focuses on improving people’s health and giving them the chance to lift themselves out of hunger and extreme poverty. In the United States, it seeks to ensure that all people — especially those with the fewest resources — have access to the opportunities they need to succeed in school and life. Based in Seattle, the foundation is led by CEO Jeff Raikes and Co-chair William H. Gates Sr., under the direction of Bill and Melinda Gates and Warren Buffett. Learn more at or join the conversation at Facebook and Twitter.

Press contact:
Dallas County Community College District
Ann Hatch