Skip to main content

EDUCATION PHILANTHROPY DIVISION OF ASCENDIUM EDUCATION GROUP

Expand Postsecondary Education in Prison

Our philanthropy addresses barriers facing currently incarcerated adults who don’t have equitable access to high-quality postsecondary education.

See Grants in This Focus Area
FocusArea HigherEdPrison Header v2

How We See the Problem

According to the U.S. Department of Justice, the prison population in the U.S. has skyrocketed in recent decades, with one in a hundred adults—about 2.3 million—currently incarcerated. Nearly all of those 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 the labor force.

However, access to programs and cost of programs are obstacles, and often the programming is disconnected from career opportunities.

The majority of incarcerated individuals—64%—have a high school credential. They’re academically eligible for a postsecondary education program; but for most, it’s out of reach. Unfortunately, 93% of colleges don’t provide higher education in prison. Of those that do provide programs, many have limited capacity to serve all interested individuals.

Ascendium’s Approach

Our aim is to support efforts that can help the field better understand what types of postsecondary education in prison programs are effective, how to forge the systemic and institutional partnerships needed to get them in place and how to spread and sustain best practices on a broad scale in order to catalyze genuine systemic change.

hep2x

Outcomes we seek

Our system-level outcomes include: the development of robust state and national partnerships to share data, best practices and outcome metrics; an increase in the number of eligible incarcerated students able to enroll and complete programs; and the creation of postsecondary options that offer high-quality instruction and curricula, leveraging technology for student access and success.

How we work

We fund initiatives that help develop systems and best practices for high-quality postsecondary education in prison. This means collaboration between partners in the field to ask the right questions, share best practices and data, and remove institutional barriers to program quality, accessibility and student success.

Grants to Expand Postsecondary Education in Prison

Optimizing Delivery Systems for Higher Education in Prison Evaluation

Validation
Second Chance Educational Alliance Inc|$350,000|1/2020 - 12/2023
As part of Ascendium’s Optimizing Delivery Systems for Higher Education in Prison initiative, this grant supports the Second Chance Educational Alliance in evaluating the initiative and synthesizing lessons learned across participating sites.

Expanding Access to Postsecondary Pathways in Louisiana State Prisons

Exploration
Operation Restoration|$650,000|6/2020 - 5/2023
This grant supports Operation Restoration in the planning and implementation of a bachelor’s degree program that will leverage technology to support incarcerated students in multiple facilities across the Louisiana state prison system. The organization will also pilot an innovative advising model that trains students with long-term sentences as academic advisors.

Transforming Higher Education Policy and Practice in Prisons and Beyond

Exploration
The Education Trust Inc|$815,000|5/2020 - 4/2022
This grant supports the Education Trust in developing two distinct but interconnected leadership development programs that will engage formerly incarcerated learners and postsecondary education in prison practitioners in an intentional learning exchange, producing nuanced reports and analysis and informing improvements to institutional practice.

Unlocking the Promise of Pell for Students in Prison

Scaling
Vera Institute of Justice Inc|$1,100,000|4/2020 - 3/2022
This grant supports Vera Institute of Justice in providing meaningful and in-depth technical assistance, training and advising to new and existing Second Chance Pell Initiative college sites and their state corrections system partners. The goal is to ensure the implementation of high-quality postsecondary education in prison and to help the field grow a cohort of correctional administrators prepared to support the broad expansion of such programs.

Thrive Technical Assistance Program

Exploration
The College and Community Fellowship Inc|$733,510|1/2020 - 12/2021
This grant supports College and Community Fellowship in increasing their capacity to provide in-depth technical assistance to higher education institutions and organizations seeking to implement evidence-based, student success components that are uniquely designed to meet the needs of learners transitioning from prison to a traditional campus setting.

Credit for Experience: Leveraging Prior Learning Assessments in Prison

Exploration
Reentry Campus Program|$200,014|5/2020 - 11/2021
This grant supports Reentry Campus Program in refining their program delivery model to increase the meaningful use of prior learning assessments and wraparound services for incarcerated students in Rhode Island. Setting the stage for broad dissemination, the organization will work to codify the program design, cost structure and associated student outcomes.

Higher Education in Prison Landscape Project

Exploration
Alliance for Higher Education in Prison|$925,000|7/2019 - 6/2021
This grant supports the Alliance for Higher Education in Prison in building a national database of higher education in prison programs and associated data.

Teaching and Learning Initiative

Exploration
Prison University Project Inc|$958,700|7/2018 - 6/2021
This grant supports the Prison University Project (PUP) in developing and implementing trauma-informed teaching practices in prison-based college programming and assessing their impact. The grant will also enable PUP to develop and disseminate training materials based on the lessons learned.

Alliance for Higher Education in Prison Capacity Building

Exploration
Alliance for Higher Education in Prison|$300,000|6/2018 - 5/2021
This grant supports the Alliance for Higher Education in Prison as it works toward a 501(c)(3) designation, hires core staff, builds infrastructure, solidifies key partnerships and develops three primary strategic focus areas: programmatic support, resource and information sharing, and research and data.

Optimizing Delivery Systems for Higher Education in Prison

Exploration
CUNY Institute for State and Local Governance|$150,000|1/2020 - 12/2020
As part of Ascendium’s Optimizing Delivery Systems for Higher Education in Prison initiative, this grant supports City University of New York’s Institute for State and Local Governance, in partnership with the New York State Department of Corrections & Community Supervision, in bringing together key stakeholders to coordinate and align the educational offerings of 47 college and vocational programs operating across 30 prisons to eliminate programmatic gaps, increase transferability and ensure broad access to high quality postsecondary education across New York facilities.

Subscribe and Stay Connected

Get Ascendium news right to your inbox, from grant announcements and project spotlights to where you can find our program staff in the field.

Newsletter Sign Up