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Private Dallas College Will Put Students to Work

Starting next fall, all students at Paul Quinn College will have jobs, either on campus or with local businesses, during their entire enrollment. In exchange, they'll get much cheaper tuition, making the school more affordable.

Paul Quinn College President Michael Sorrell addresses students in the school's library.

As part of an ongoing effort to become more affordable, a private college in Dallas is putting its students to work. 

Paul Quinn College, a private, religiously affiliated and historically black school, will announce Tuesday night that it is embracing the work college model. Starting this fall, all students at the school will be given jobs in offices and departments on campus, or with local businesses. They will work during their entire enrollment. In exchange, they will pay far less in tuition.

There are just seven work colleges in the United States, and Paul Quinn, known already for transforming its football field into a farm several years ago, would become the first in Texas, and first in a city the size of Dallas. Before it can officially join the Work Colleges Consortium, the school must meet standards set by the U.S. Department of Education, which requires institutions to operate as a work college for two years before receiving the designation.

Student enrollment at Paul Quinn has grown to 285 from about 200 in 2011. The college went through a scare several years ago when it faced the threat of losing its accreditation, but has since bounced back

“We represent what’s possible. We took a lot of criticism from a lot of different corners, from people who didn’t understand what we were trying to accomplish,” President Michael Sorrell said. “What we were trying to accomplish has always been very clear. We think there is a place in higher education for an institution that commits itself to the needs of the population and the communities they serve.”

While the total cost of attendance is $14,275 a year, Sorrell said, with work credit and other assistance the average student won’t pay more than $2,300 annually.

“We have made a decision to function leanly in order to pass our savings onto our students,” Sorrell said. “That’s just the right thing to do. It’s who we are, and that’s taking care of our family.”

Additionally, Sorrell will announce Tuesday night that the school will no longer require students to pay for textbooks. Instead, classes will use free, open-source materials.

“We try very hard not to load our students up with loans,” Sorrell said. 

Work colleges can afford to keep tuition low because the students do a lot of the work that keeps the campus running, said Robin Taffler, executive director of the Work Colleges Consortium. She said the consortium is excited to have an urban college as a prospective member.

“Employers are going to really enjoy having this pool of highly qualified young people to choose from that not only have a degree but are work prepared,” Taffler said. “The students do every imaginable job on work college campuses. At one of the colleges, the students build the buildings on campus.”

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