Dallas-based work college Paul Quinn gets $1M to expand
- Dallas-based Paul Quinn College has received a $1 million grant from the nonprofit Strada Education Network, which it will use to expand its urban work college program to fast-growing Plano, Texas.
- Paul Quinn became the ninth federally designated work college in 2017, but unlike most that are in rural areas, the HBCU operates in Dallas, where it offers an affordable college education with an emphasis on work-study options that connect students with jobs at local companies.
- Since becoming a work college, it has reduced tuition and fees by almost $10,000 and cut its graduates' debt by some $30,000, while raising graduation and retention rates. Those changes attracted Strada, whose mission is to develop pathways between education and employment.
Paul Quinn's 550 students, three-quarters of whom receive Pell grants, attend class three days per week and work on two, often with local corporations, according to The Hechinger Report, which notes that Plano was a draw for the college due to its bevy of employers. PepsiCo and FedEx have regional offices in Plano, and Toyota moved its headquarters there last summer. About 50 students were expected to be based in Plano this fall, with classes held for the time being in space provided by corporate sponsors.
The college has gained attention for a series of moves by its President Michael Sorrell (shown above) upon taking the helm of the struggling institution in 2007, including cutting the football program and turning the field into an urban farm that has since produced more than 50,000 pounds of food. Making connections to corporate world allowed the work college model to take flight for Paul Quinn.
Work colleges focus on giving students an affordable option for college that provides them with job-ready skills. Work college graduates typically owe $10,000 less in student debt than public college graduates and $15,000 less than private nonprofit graduates, according to The Hechinger Report, citing data from the Work Colleges Consortium.
Workforce readiness is a growing imperative across higher education. While the topic has long been the domain of community and two-year colleges, land-grant and other large research universities are exploring their role. A working paper issued this fall from the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities discussed how those institutions and federal policymakers can work together to ensure higher education is meeting these needs, including supporting rural communities and partnering with advanced manufacturing companies.
A separate report from the Education Commission of the States identified five common themes of successful state programs to close the skills gap between higher ed training and workforce skills needs. Those include data utilization, stakeholder coordination and — as evidenced by Paul Quinn's latest grant — access to industry as well as federal funding.