March 20, 2019

Penn GSE alum Michael Sorrell is changing lives in South Dallas

Paul Quinn College, a historically Black college in South Dallas, appeared to be on its last legs when Michael Sorrell was named president.

Originally, Sorrell was only supposed to be a caretaker president for 90 days. The hope was his previous success in business would help him keep the doors open through the crisis, even though he had no experience in higher education administration.

Michael Sorrell, President of Paul Quinn College and Penn GSE alum.

As the Wall Street Journal recently noted in a profile of Sorrell, when he arrived at Paul Quinn 12 years ago, “the school’s balance sheet was in the red, 15 of its buildings were abandoned and the graduation rate was just 5%.”

Instead, Sorrell stayed and transformed Paul Quinn into a model for how urban colleges can serve students from underprivileged backgrounds. 

Sorrell, a graduate of Penn GSE’s Executive Doctorate in Higher Education Management program, believes colleges need to reimagine how they operate if they want students with few financial resources to succeed.

As the Journal notes, Paul Quinn has created a jobs program that allows students to build a resume, ease tuition burdens, and focus on their education. During his tenure, the Journal reports, Paul Quinn’s freshman retention rate has risen from 38 percent to 71 percent.

“Students from Pell Grant backgrounds can graduate with less than ten thousand dollars of debt, and they get two forms of education—a real-world work experience, and a rigorous liberal arts experience,” Sorrell previously told Penn GSE

Sorrell, Paul Quinn, and Penn GSE are still linked. Sorrell is a member of Penn GSE's Board of Overseers and is on the advisory board for Penn GSE’s Center for Minority Serving Institutions. After his experience here, he encouraged Dexter Evans, a Paul Quinn student to pursue a master’s degree at Penn GSE. After earning a degree in Higher Education Administration in 2018, Evans returned to Paul Quinn, and now serves as Special Assistant to the President.

Read the full Wall Street Journal piece here.