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Free College Tuition Program Gets Millions In Private Sector Support

DALLAS (CBSDFW.COM) - First a promise-- now a pledge.

The free community college tuition program dubbed 'Dallas County Promise' is getting a big dose of private sector support.

JPMorgan Chase is donating $3 million to help prepare Dallas County students for high demand careers in partnership with Dallas County Promise.

"This has to take place locally," says Jamie Dimon, Chairman & CEO of JPMorgan Chase at the announcement at Brookhaven College. "Someone just asked the question--what about Washington? Washington should be doing this... I don't think Washington's going to fix it. I think the Mayor is going to fix it working with business here."

According to Dimon, businesses have a responsibility to impact social problems when they can... and providing a pathway for students to get out of poverty is a win for both the community and the businesses that need them. "There are six million open jobs today and if you go interview companies, they can't find the people they need, because they're not properly trained. And so we should train 'em and give them jobs."

Fernanda Saucedo is just the kind of student that the program hopes to reach. She began earning her associates degree while attending DISD's Early College High School. Now, Dallas County Promise will cover the tuition for her remaining two years of study at UNT Dallas. That's right. A bachelor's degree tuition and loan free.

"I cried," admits Saucedo with a laugh. "In all honesty-- I cried."

Of course, those tears were a mix of joy and relief. "I was stressing, because I was like, I don't know what that is, ya know,..what's its like and just the stress of paying them off, so yeah, it's a relief."

The goal of the JPMorgan Chase donation will be to, among other things, expose high school students to well-paying, in demand careers in healthcare and information technology. It will also help fund support services for those students to help them be successful once enrolled.

"All students will be assigned a success coach who will be with them from the time they raise their hand to enroll, through college completion," says Eric Ban, Managing Director of Dallas County Promise. "We know this is essential, especially for first generation students in a relatively complex college process, so that's a big part of our strategy moving forward."

Ban also applauded JPMorgan Chase-- calling the partnership a "smart investment"... adding "This is an investment in talent. Talent produces economic development, and economic development helps communities."

Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings was also on hand for the announcement and said he hopes the donation will spur others to get involved with supporting the scholarship program.

"One of the biggest heartbreaks in being Mayor is seeing kids with no hope, believing they are going to stay poor like their parents were poor... and to understand that there is a pathway now for them to get college paid for. I'm buoyed and I feel great about it," said Mayor Rawlings.

And that goes double for Fernanda Saucedo. "I did not hesitate," says the future occupational therapist with a laugh. "I'm like--I'm ready... count me in!"

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