Free laptops, esports and tuition cuts: How one Dallas college is pivoting during the pandemic

Texas Tribune

Paul Quinn College serves more than 500 students. In a statement, university President Michael Sorrell announced measures it would take to appease students for the loss of campus resources, including a $2,000 tuition reduction.

Paul Quinn College in Dallas is attempting to ease its students out of poverty by becoming the nation’s first urban work college. Nov. 11, 2019. Eddie Gaspar/The Texas Tribune

Free laptops, esports and tuition cuts: How one Dallas college is pivoting during the pandemic” was first published by The Texas Tribune, a nonprofit, nonpartisan media organization that informs Texans — and engages with them — about public policy, politics, government and statewide issues.

Paul Quinn College students will not return to the Dallas school’s campus this fall, President Michael Sorrell announced Thursday. That makes the university one of the first in Texas to move to online-only learning as most other colleges press forward with plans for at least some in-person classes.

The loss of campus resources will result in a tuition reduction of more than $2,000. The university also plans to provide Wi-Fi hotspots and laptops to every college student in need. Paul Quinn has also joined a historically Black college and university esports network to replace canceled fall sports.

“Simply put, it is too dangerous at this time to allow on-campus living, instruction, and engagement,” Sorrell wrote in a letter to the college community.

The historically Black college enrolls around 525 students, more than two-thirds of whom are Black. Sorrell is credited with turning around the school, which was once on the brink of closure. Paul Quinn is the nation’s first urban work college, a federally recognized school where students are required to hold down jobs and have their professional performance incorporated into their academic studies. It is designed to be an affordable and flexible alternative to traditional universities.

Even as colleges continue to move more classes online, tuition rates for many of Texas’ largest universities, including the University of Texas at Austin, University of Houston, University of North Texas and Texas Tech University, will stay the same. Campus leaders have largely defended that decision, maintaining that online learning comes with its own expenses.

Sorrell and campus leaders made the decision to move to online-only learning after gathering information from experts, Thursday’s letter said. They also used a “common-sense standard” in evaluating how student and staff behavior would be monitored.

“You can continue to trust the process that we have established for you, maintain your enrollment for the fall, and be rewarded for doing so,” Sorrell wrote. “Or, you can yield to the siren call of others who do not share our long-term vision of greatness for you, but certainly offer you the illusion of safety and short-term solutions. We hope that you will choose wisely.”

Disclosure: Texas Tech University, the University of Houston, the University of North Texas and the University of Texas at Austin have been financial supporters of The Texas Tribune, a nonprofit, nonpartisan news organization that is funded in part by donations from members, foundations and corporate sponsors. Financial supporters play no role in the Tribune’s journalism. Find a complete list of them here.

This article originally appeared in The Texas Tribune at https://www.texastribune.org/2020/07/09/paul-quinn-college-texas-coronavirus/.

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