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Paul Quinn Becomes First Historically Black College to be Designated a ‘Work College’

President Michael Sorrell expects the new accolade to help him expand the school's work program nationally.
Michael Sorrell is the president of Paul Quinn College in South Dallas.
Michael Sorrell is the president of Paul Quinn College in South Dallas.

Paul Quinn College in South Dallas has become the first historically black college and university to be named a “Work College” by the U.S. Department of Education.

The new designation will help Michael Sorrell, president of Paul Quinn, achieve his goal of creating a national system of work programs based on the Paul Quinn model. “We’re the first urban work college in the country,” said Sorrell, who was notified about the designation on March 2o. “Our goal is to expand this program to other cities.”

Sorrell said he plans to share the model with other colleges in urban areas that could benefit, solely for the sake of improving those communities. Sorrell is also considering opening branches of Paul Quinn in other cities. “We’re going to be malleable in terms of which format that takes,” he said about the expansion of the program. “But the goal is to create a system of urban work colleges.”

Four years ago, faith-based Paul Quinn introduced a work program based on a broad network of off-campus partners offering industry training opportunities to students. The new urban college model provides a low-cost, structured work program where students can learn new skills and receive coaching and evaluation from experts in their chosen fields, Sorrell said. The program requires students to work 10 to 20 hours a week and has helped reduce student tuition by $10,000. Employers not only pay students for their work, but also help fund tuition. Companies supporting the program include J.C. Penney, Oncor, and PepsiCo.

Paul Quinn’s student body consists of about 450 students, 78 percent of them black and nearly 20 percent Hispanic, according to numbers provided in November. The school shares the federal Work College designation with eight other universities.

Graduates of the work program help strengthen the local workforce and benefit from a competitive edge over their peers, Sorrell said. Similar colleges may have some version of this program, but they lack the industry access Paul Quinn students have because these schools are located in mostly rural areas, he added.

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