• Joanne Jacobs

‘Work colleges’ go urban

The “work college” model — students are required to work as part of their education — is spreading to cities, reports Hechinger’s Delece Smith-Barrow.

Paul Quinn College, a historically black college in Dallas, has reinvented itself as the first urban work college. “In August, when Paul Quinn’s 2018-19 school year begins, it is expanding to a new campus in Plano, Texas, just weeks after announcing a fledgling partnership with two urban schools in Michigan and Ohio,” reports Smith-Barrow.


Kevin Lee, a Paul Quinn student, works in the president’s office. Photo: Dianna Douglas/KERA


At rural work colleges, like Berea in Kentucky, students typically work on campus, often on college farms, keeping costs down.  Paul Quinn turned its football field into an organic farm, run by students, but the Plano campus is intended to put students in corporate offices “offering students a stepping stone to post-college careers,” she writes.




Students will attend classes  on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, and work full-time on Tuesdays and Thursdays.

Work colleges typically serve low- and moderate-income students who are worried about running up college debts. At Paul Quinn, 72 percent of students receive Pell grants. While tuition, fees, and room and board are $14,495, the work-college model enables students to graduate with less than $10,000 in debt, says Michael Sorrell, the college president. (When he took over the struggling college, Sorrell instituted a dress-for-sucess code: Students must wear “business casual” clothing to classes.)

Kuyper College in Grand Rapids, Michigan, and Wilberforce University near Dayton, Ohio, have joined with Paul Quinn to form the Urban College Consortium. Wilberforce and Kuyper plan to starting work-college programs.


Upward mobility requires more than a college degree. In the San Jose and San Francisco area, high schools are trying to connect first-generation, college-bound students to careers, I wrote recently.

(Some) have partnered with the nonprofit Genesys Works to place 12th-graders in nine-month internships at high-tech and other companies. During the summer before the students’ senior year, Genesys Works trains them in technical skills, such as information technology, as well as soft skills, like writing professional emails, handling feedback and networking. Once school starts, students spend their mornings in class and their afternoons at work, averaging 20 hours a week at $13 to $15 an hour.

Nearly all go on to college.

San Jose’s Downtown College Prep works hard to get its students — nearly all are first-generation and Latino — into and through college. Those with non-technical majors often struggle to find professional jobs. To help college graduates launch careers, DCP now provides career counseling — and sometimes internships. Edgar Chavez, the college success director “is pushing every student to complete a summer internship in college — or earlier.”

#collegecosts #debt #PaulQuinnCollege #BereaCollege #upwardmobility #workcolleges

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