Who's Helping Low-Income Women Navigate the Financial Side of College in North Texas?

The choices that surround financial aid and loans for college are complex, and often overwhelming to young people with low levels of financial literacy. With tuition at record highs, missteps can be costly for anyone pursuing a postsecondary education, but especially for low-income young people with meager resources. And we haven't even mentioned all the shady, for-profit education entities that promise skills and job opportunities to young people only to leave them with a pile of debt.

It's a good thing that some funders care about financial literacy in this area, and one regional funder on the case is the Dallas Women’s Foundation, which recently awarded $360,000 to the Consumer Credit Counseling Service of Greater Dallas (CCCS). 

Since 1985, the foundation has awarded more than $23 million in grants to organizations “unlocking resources for women and girls” in three North Texas counties. Its annual awards total several million dollars, and money is spread over dozens of grantees with grants tending to be on the smaller end. To qualify for funding, grantees must be U.S. nonprofits primarily serving women and girls (at least 75 percent of grantee clients) AND residents of Texas’ Dallas, Denton, or Collin Counties (at least 50 percent of grantee clients).

The financial literacy grant is a big one for the foundation, and it advances its relatively new work on women's economic security. In turn, this program has been informed by an in-depth analysis of the economic challenges facing women that the foundation's research and advocacy arm, the Texas Women's Foundation, published earlier this year. That analysis zeroed on the all-important issue of wages in the battle for economic security, with many jobs simply not paying enough to allow working women to get by, much less ahead.  

But the report also flagged other key issues, including access to higher education and the challenges of getting such an education without accumulating excessive debt. This is where the grant to CCCS comes in. Funds will pay for a partnership between that group and the Dallas County Community College District to provide "financial education, coaching and counseling to low-to-moderate income women ages 18 to 34 in order to help them build the skills and knowledge needed to stay in school, graduate and repay debts."

That sounds like money well spent to us. 

The Consumer Credit Counseling Service of Greater Dallas, a nonprofit housing and consumer credit advisory resource, was founded in 1973 by four Dallas businessmen. The group assists its clients with financial counseling, comprehensive community education, and the formation of professional debt management plans. CCCS works with both individuals and businesses.

Since 1979, the CCCS has,with support from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, helped its clients resolve housing problems in ways that help them build assets. In particular, CCCS focuses on educating residents in its service area on home buying and foreclosure prevention. So we can only imagine how busy it's been in the past half decade, amid an epidemic of foreclosures. CCCS reports that it reaches roughly 30,000 to 40,000 consumers, in English and in Spanish, with its financial literacy programming annually.

We should point out that housing was another key issue flagged in the report by the Texas Women's Foundation, which noted that for most women, "housing represents the single largest cost in their budgets... when women have access to affordable housing for their families, they have more resources for investment in education, child care and health insurance."

So who knows? Maybe the foundation and CCCS will be doing some more business together.