Dallas school to become nation's eighth 'work college'

Student employment will drop annual out-of-pocket costs to $2,300

A private, historically black college in Dallas will begin transitioning into the eighth work college in the United States this fall in an attempt to make higher education more affordable for its students, school officials announced Tuesday.

Paul Quinn College officials say that students will be able to work 10 to 20 hours a week on campus or with local companies while attending school. For their work, students will earn an estimated $5,000—and combined with the estimated $6,975 in federal aid most students receive, that will drop the $14,275 price tag for the upcoming year to just $2,300.

"We can now deliver two education experiences for the price of one," says Michael Sorrell, Paul Quinn’s president, adding, "You're going to get a traditional liberal arts education, and it's going to be combined with four years of real-world work experience."

Students say they're ready for the workforce. Employers disagree.

The program, mandatory for those living on campus, will enable the religiously affiliated school's estimated 285 students—many of whom come from low-income families—to graduate with less debt, says Sorrell.

As an added benefit, students will complete much of the work needed to keep the campus running, which will allow Paul Quinn to save on costs and keep tuition low, says Robin Taffler, the Work Colleges Consortium's executive director. Paul Quinn would be that organization's first member in a city as large as Dallas if it passes the Department of Education's standards, which require schools to run as work colleges for two years before earning the designation.

"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," says Taffler.

Paul Quinn has experimented with other unusual programs for saving students' money in the past, such as converting its football field into a farm. In addition to converting to a work college, the school will also use open-source material next year instead of asking students to buy textbooks.

"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," Sorrell says (Blanchard, Texas Tribune, 2/17; Hacker, Dallas Morning News, 2/17).

The takeaway: A small, historically black college in Dallas will begin steps to become the eighth work college in the U.S. this fall, requiring students living on campus to work 10 to 20 hours a week and lowering annual out-of-pocket costs to just $2,300.

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