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Dallas' Paul Quinn Is First Urban, Historically Black College To Join Cohort Of 'Work Colleges'

Courtesy of Paul Quinn College
The exterior of Paul Quinn College in Dallas.

Dallas’ Paul Quinn College has earned federal recognition as an official “work college,” making it the first urban, Historically Black College and University and the ninth college in the country to earn the designation.

Paul Quinn College got word Monday from the U.S. Department of Education that its application had been approved. As an official work college, Paul Quinn will receive federal funding through an allocation within the federal work-study program. 

Two years ago, as KERA reported, the college adopted the work college model, where everyone who lives on campus works for the school in some form — such as tending the farm on campus — to graduate with less than $10,000 of student loan debt.

President Michael Sorrell took over Paul Quinn in 2007, when it nearly lost its accreditation. He cut the football program and turned the field into a farm. It provides not only work opportunities for students but also fresh food benefiting the food desert in the poor neighborhood where the school is located. Students work on the farm and sell the extra food. 

Watch a special from PBS Newshour about Paul Quinn College

Students work between 10 and 20 hours per week and between 300 and 400 hours per academic year in order to earn the full tuition grant of $5,000 and cash payment between $1,000 and $1,500, according to the school’s site.

“It’s a complete change in the way that the institution has done business for the 140-plus years that it has been in existence,” Sorrell told KERA.

In 2014, Sorrell began efforts to find jobs for all freshmen on campus and the following year, all freshmen and sophomores had them. Now, all full-time, residential students regardless of their financial need are required to participate in the work program.

Paul Quinn joins a handful of other federally recognized work colleges — all in rural areas — in the country. Schools in the consortium include Alice Lloyd College and Berea College in Kentucky, Blackburn College in Illinois, College of the Ozarks in Missouri, Ecclesia College in Arkansas, Sterling College in Vermont, and Warren Wilson College in North Carolina. Bethany Global University is also recognized as a work college, but it has yet to join Work College Consortium. 

The southern Dallas school is a small, private, four-year institution founded on April 4, 1872 by a group of African Methodist Episcopal Church preachers in Austin. The school’s original purpose was to educate freed slaves and their children. It now serves students of all races and socioeconomic classes.