Madison, WI— Ascendium Education Group has committed up to $5 million in funding for its new initiative, “Optimizing Delivery Systems for Higher Education in Prison: Postsecondary Pathways for Re-Entry Transition.” This initiative represents Ascendium’s first major project in the higher education in prison (HEP) space since unveiling a new funding strategy featuring HEP as one of four key focus areas earlier this year.
Despite a growing number of HEP programs around the country, the majority of incarcerated people do not have access to high-quality, postsecondary educational opportunities. Too often, low-quality instruction, irrelevant credentials or minimal student support undermine student success, preventing many incarcerated students from achieving their academic and career goals.
“Our aim is to support efforts that can help us—and the field—learn what it takes to build the relationships and infrastructure necessary for broad, systemic improvement,” explained Ascendium Vice President of Education Philanthropy Amy Kerwin. “This initiative will boost the innovation already underway at our selected sites, and we’re excited to help elevate their work.”
Three sites have been chosen to receive one-year, $150,000 planning grants, with subsequent implementation funding of up to $800,000 to be awarded to successful planning sites. The selected sites are:
- Iowa Department of Education, in partnership with the Iowa Department of Corrections, Des Moines Area Community College, Iowa Central Community College and the University of Iowa, to support the development of a plan for expanded postsecondary education options across Iowa that are workforce relevant and support varied academic and career goals.
- Minnesota Department of Corrections, in partnership with the "Just Education" Collaborative at the Institute for Advanced Study at the University of Minnesota, Inver Hills Community College/Dakota County Technical College, and Augsburg University, to support preparations to launch their “College at Prison” effort to reimagine postsecondary education offerings across all prison facilities in Minnesota.
- City University of New York’s Institute for State and Local Governance in partnership with the New York Department of Correction to support bringing together key stakeholders in an effort 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 in New York facilities.
- Second Chance Educational Alliance will be evaluating the initiative and synthesizing lessons learned across participating sites.
“The goal of the initiative is systems change. That’s why collaboration between state corrections departments, individual facilities and postsecondary providers was a key eligibility requirement for grant applicants,” Kerwin said. “We believe that refining systems and institutional policies and practices to better meet students’ needs could ultimately lead to increased access, higher credential completion rates, smoother college transfers and more meaningful employment opportunities on reentry into the community.”