State and Local Program Examples
In 2018, just 4% of higher education institutions offered credit courses for students in prison and only 35% of state prisons provide access to college courses. In areas where education programs are offered, limited educational resources, staffing difficulties and challenges related to credit transfer and articulation remain common hurdles.
However, some institutions and programs across the country are working to offer postsecondary education to students who are currently incarcerated or serve students who were previously incarcerated. Stakeholders are working to develop partnerships between colleges and correctional institutions, create comprehensive supports and advising for students, and ensure degree and credential programs provide quality learning outcomes for students.
Mount Tamalpais College
Formerly known as the Prison University Project at San Quentin, this is the first independent liberal arts institution dedicated to serving incarcerated students. Since the college launched in 1996, it has enrolled nearly 4,000 students and received accreditation by the Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges in January 2020. The college offers an education associate degree program and college preparatory courses in writing and mathematics. Most of the teaching faculty are volunteers from nearby colleges and universities.
Massachusetts Prison Education Consortium
Managed by the Educational Justice Institute at MIT, the Massachusetts Prison Education Consortium creates and sustains an education pipeline to serve currently and formerly incarcerated individuals. The consortium also works to develop academic and career advising programs to meet the needs of currently or formerly incarcerated students. MPEC members include nearly 50 educational institutions across the state as well as the Massachusetts Department of Correction and the Massachusetts Department of Higher Education. The consortium expanded in 2020 to include partners in Maine and New Hampshire.
Reentry Campus Program
The Reentry Campus Program is based in Rhode Island and helps currently or formerly incarcerated individuals receive postsecondary education through credit programs, comprehensive wrap-around supports, and prior learning assessment testing. The program has helped close to 400 students and partners with higher education institutions such as University College at Roger Williams University to help students attain higher education degrees and credentials.
Barton Community College
Barton Community College has partnered with the Ellsworth Correctional Facility in Ellsworth, Kan., to create the Building Academic Skills in Correctional Settings (BASICS) Program. The program offers eight certificate programs in areas such as welding, manufacturing, carpentry, and digital literacy, as well as adult basic education and advising for more than 200 students per year. Barton Community College was one of nine recipients of the Improved Reentry Education Grant Program in 2015 from the U.S. Department of Education.
Tennessee Prison College Coalition
The Tennessee Prison College Coalition is a coalition of stakeholder groups including higher education institutions, corrections entities, and community partners that work together and collaborate to support prison higher education practices across the state. These efforts include working with community and technical colleges and creating a culture of education within the prison system.