By Ashley Moss
Amidst a global crisis, Paul Quinn College (PQC) is staying ahead of the curve by offering innovative solutions for its students. Indeed, while other colleges across the country have scrambled to offer real-time solutions Paul Quinn moved quickly to put a plan in place, offering incentives like reduced tuition, laptops to students who need them and a recently launched tele-health program which offers round-the-clock, no-cost medical and mental health services for students. The quick pivot has allowed the college to work towards other goals for the institution, all focused on fostering big dreamers, healthy thinkers, and world-changers.
One such program is the new Urban Scholars program for degree-seekers. A result of a partnership with a for-profit education initiative called the Minerva Project, it will offer a unique chance for students to gain real work experience while tackling some of the country’s most crippling issues. Students must choose a concentration in one of three areas: healthcare disparities, the wealth gap, or criminal justice reform. “The students go to school, get a degree in three years and double major in business administration and public policy,” said Dr. Michael J. Sorrell, president of the College. Not only is the program entirely online, allowing students to live, work and affect change right in their own communities, it comes with a price tag that makes education more than possible for many, he explained. PQC already offers competitive tuition for its students, around $12,000 annually, but the Urban Scholars Program will help eliminate costs through a variety of means, including employer subsidies and scholarships, in addition to a minimally projected student loan debt. Of the program, “Students say it’s hot,” said President Sorrell. “You’re going to be able to stay at home and learn, being an integral part of the community in which you live.”
The college is actively recruiting for its first class of Minerva Urban Scholars. Anyone interested in applying can find more information at https://pqc-edu.squarespace.com/. Also on the horizon is still yet another vehicle for change with a partnership that will offer high school students early exposure to college. The project with KIPP Texas-DFW is new, but not the school. A statement from Dr. Anthony Smith, KIPP Texas-Dallas-Fort Worth Regional Superintendent clarified that this will be a relocation of the existing campus at KIPP Oak Cliff Academy(KOCA), just five miles from PQC. Officials say the move comes after deliberate conversations between families, community members, and elected officials. “We sought out a safe and permanent home for KOCA because of input from our families, not in the absence of it,” Dr. Smith said. “A basement at PQC was home to the first KIPP Texas-DFW middle school 17 years ago, and we are honored to begin a new chapter of serving this community together.
“KIPP came to us with an idea (to) build a campus that will serve students from pre-K all the way to (grade) 12,” said President Sorrell. “We need to find a way to support the expansion of possibilities in our community.” Supporters anticipate that the option will practically build a pipeline to college and offer a “model for transformation” with a potentially $40-million dollar campus, which could also prime the neighborhood for economic development. Despite enthusiasm surrounding the project and KIPP’s success over the years, there are some who are not supporting the KIPP Project. In a statement released recently, Dallas City Councilman Tennell Atkins said, ‘The Dallas Independent School District (Dallas ISD) provides high-quality education for our children across the city, including District 8. Our schools have produced world-class students that have become leaders and trailblazers locally and nationally, including Thomas Palmer, an alum of Barack Obama Male Leadership Academy at A. Maceo Smith High School, who recently gave a TEDx talk about political awareness among young people.
“With that said, I’m troubled about KIPP Academy potentially moving into District 8 on the campus of Paul Quinn College. I support our Dallas ISD schools in District 8, having every confidence in knowing they provide high-quality education to the children they serve in our neighborhoods.” The partnership also further cements PQC’s continued commitment to the Highland Hills neighborhood. Among many programs, some halted because of the pandemic, the oldest liberal arts HBCU west of the Mississippi, through partnerships with Minnie’s Food Pantry, the City of Dallas and Lyda Hill Philanthropies, is currently a COVID-19 testing site that has provided more than 3,330 tests, 2,210 boxes of food and 4,100 masks to those in need, in less than a month. When asked how Paul Quinn is managing to stay at the forefront of innovation with programs like the aforementioned, President Sorrell was frank. “You have to be wired to think you can change the world. The people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world, are the ones that do.”