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Newsletter Article February 09, 2021

The Expanding Role of Colleges in Prison Education

Last November, we supported The Chronicle of Higher Education to conduct a national survey to gauge views on postsecondary education in prison programs. The results include responses from over 750 college administrators and faculty members from both public and private institutions. A newly-published report summarizing these findings, The Expanding Role of Colleges in Prison Education, weaves stories of incarcerated learners together with survey data showing overwhelming support by respondents for postsecondary education in prison programs.

As The Chronicle’s survey has reflected, access to postsecondary education is widely seen as a necessity for incarcerated learners to rebuild their lives and effectively transition when released. Nearly all incarcerated individuals will return to their communities at some point, and research has demonstrated that postsecondary education dramatically improves the odds of successful reentry into the community and workforce. The report underscores the growing interest in expanding postsecondary education programs in prison, but also identifies several barriers.

Reversing a longstanding ban, Congress recently agreed to expand Pell Grants to incarcerated students. Once implemented, over 460,000 incarcerated people will have the opportunity to access postsecondary education, making it more important than ever to ensure that the expanded access is to high-quality programs. Our focus area to Expand Postsecondary Education in Prison aims to remove barriers to program quality and accessibility by developing and scaling high-quality postsecondary education in prison delivery models and supporting strategic partnerships between postsecondary education providers, correction systems, employers and community-based organizations.

The Ascendium support of this project by The Chronicle also includes two related publications, Market Primer: Educating the Incarcerated and A College Lifeline: Higher education for incarcerated and rural students — and why it matters.

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