Increasing Opportunities for Living Wage Attainment in Texas
The Commit Partnership and Capital One are striving to close racial and socioeconomic achievement gaps in living wage attainment
March 2, 2021
While Dallas-Fort Worth has emerged as one of the fastest growing regions in the U.S., the opportunity to prosper is not shared equitably across its residents.
According to The Commit Partnership, a community navigator that works to ensure that all North Texas students receive an equitable education, only one-in-four young adults in Dallas County, Texas, currently earn a living wage. That rate is even lower for Black and Hispanic young adults, who are three times less likely than their white peers to earn a living wage.
In an effort to address those challenges, coupled with the disproportionate effect that COVID-19 has had on communities of color in the region, The Commit Partnership is launching Dallas Thrives, an initiative that aims to double the number of young adults earning a living wage by 2040.
Recognizing the urgent need to enable equitable opportunities for all people in Dallas-Fort Worth, Todd Williams, CEO and Chair of The Commit Partnership, leaned into strategic partnerships with local businesses, nonprofits, elected officials and educators to launch Dallas Thrives and strive to create lasting change.
“This initiative seeks to strengthen the pipeline of local talent and achieve racial equity across employment,” Williams said. “Those efforts are critical to ensuring a resilient economy and better future for our students, families and businesses alike.”
Ensuring Access for All
Because the pandemic has established virtual learning as a must for many schools, The Commit Partnership has also taken the steps to connect public school families with free internet solutions. Through its Internet For All coalition, The Commit Partnership and more than 40 community partners are pursuing various strategies to ensure every family has reliable internet access to learn virtually.
Capital One is one of those local businesses supporting Dallas Thrives to drive meaningful change in Dallas County through improved access to education. Its support comes as part of an initial $200 million, multi-year commitment to advance socioeconomic mobility through the Capital One Impact Initiative.
Launched in October 2020, the Capital One Impact Initiative seeks to create a world where everyone has an equal opportunity to prosper through advocating for an inclusive society, building thriving communities and creating financial tools that enrich lives.
“Businesses have a responsibility as neighbors in our community to help foster a more equitable and vibrant future,” said Sanjiv Yajnik, President of Financial Services of Capital One. “Having a strong talent and workforce pipeline is universally beneficial and we are thrilled to partner with The Commit Partnership to support its impactful work that will make a lasting difference.”
Dallas County Promise
In addition to improving livable wage attainment, The Commit Partnership has also launched the Dallas County Promise — a coalition created to ease the financial burden of attending college.
This program covers any cost of tuition not included in financial aid grants and pairs students with a success coach for the following three years of their education. Nearly 60 high schools in Dallas County currently participate in this initiative.
Given that roughly 85% of jobs that pay a living wage require a postsecondary degree while only nearly 40% of young adults in Dallas hold an associate’s degree or higher, the Dallas County Promise strives to help build a key foundation for professional success by ensuring that students have the resources needed to attend college.
Clearing the Path for Higher Education
For first-generation college students like Festus Oyinwola, a 19-year-old Dallas County Promise Scholar, this initiative played a central role in helping him realize his higher-ed dreams. Attending college once seemed like a faraway goal to Oyinwola, who says his father was concerned about finding a way to pay for his college tuition. The Dallas County Promise helped reduce those financial barriers and create a cleared path for educational attainment.
“I thought I was going to have to wait one more year before I started college but The Promise helped me continue my studies uninterrupted,” Oyinwola says.
As a Promise Scholar, Oyinwola first attended Richland College and has since transferred to the University of North Texas at Dallas where he studies biology and recently declared a minor in chemistry. Receiving tuition assistance has enabled Owinyola to spend less time worrying about how to pay for his studies and instead focus on his goal of attending medical school.
Oyinwola hopes to serve as a model for his younger sister and create a cycle for his family members to pursue a higher education directly following high school. Now that his sister is approaching her own high school graduation, Oyinwola has encouraged her to apply for the Dallas County Promise so she too can have the same opportunities to study in her field of interest.
“When I was in my first year of college, I had to figure out most of those things by myself,” Oyinwola says. “My hope is that she doesn’t really have to do that because she has me.”