Lone S.T.A.R.'s: Charting New Economic Pathways

Lone Star Prize
Merit America

We will drive $1B in wage gains by building new pathways to upwardly-mobile careers for talented, low-wage Texans without bachelor’s degrees, focusing on underrepresented minorities.

Last Updated: November 2023
Competition Participation
Lone Star Prize
Lone Star Prize
Job creation and workforce development
Current Work Location(s):
  • Dallas County, Texas, United States of America
  • California, United States of America
  • North Carolina, United States of America
  • Texas, United States of America
Priority Population(s):
  • Economically disadvantaged people
  • People of African descent
  • Unemployed people
Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs):
  • 4. Quality education
  • 8. Decent work and economic growth
  • 10. Reduced inequalities

Executive Summary

Since 2020, nearly 3 million Texans have filed for unemployment, most from underrepresented backgrounds. Today’s challenge is about more than just getting Texans back to work: it’s about creating pathways to higher paying, more resilient careers and building a more equitable future as the country recovers.

Over the next 5 years, Merit America will prepare vulnerable Texan STARs (individuals “Skilled Through Alternative Routes”) for careers in IT, advanced manufacturing, and healthcare with fast, flexible programs focused on what employers need most. This includes growing our current site in Dallas, and expanding into Houston, San Antonio, Austin, and multiple rural distressed communities. Our programs will allow underrepresented, underemployed Texans (including veterans) to upskill while balancing work, family, and social distancing.

Through this work, we will drive $1 billion in total wage gains over the next five years by serving 25,000 Americans (and 2,500 Texans) with a model that is 90% self-funded.

Organization Details
Lead Organization

Merit America

website: https://www.meritamerica.org/
Organization Headquarters
Texas, United States of America
Organization ID
Number of Full-time Employees
101 to 300
Annual Operating Budget
$25.1 to 50 Million

Charity, fund, non-governmental organization, religious institution, school, or other entity

Organizations may provide budget and employee data based on this proposal or the organization as a whole. For more information on this proposal or organization, please email us.


Since our 2018 launch, we have served more than 7,000 learners, 86% with no four-year college degree and 70% people of color, with 83% earning industry-recognized credentials in 14-22 weeks, and over 60% job placement for learners. Professor Ben Castleman and the University of Virginia recently completed our second longitudinal study and validated that Merit America drove an average annual wage gain of $24,000 for graduates in new roles, not including the value of benefits and long-term advancement opportunities.

We continue to lead the charge to help other workforce development leaders benefit from our learnings. We’ve launched a Community of Practice with the CEOs of Year Up, Choose U, NPower, Per Scholas, and ClimbHire. We host regular sessions to share data and learnings on key areas, such as charging employers, recruitment strategies and admissions procedures.

Help Fund Bold Solutions

Learn more and help fund this highly-rated project:

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