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Expand Postsecondary Education in Prison

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

A formerly incarcerated person operating a forklift.

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 postsecondary education in prison. Of those that do provide programs, many have limited capacity to serve all interested individuals.

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Ready for Pell

This two-year initiative is designed to support and strengthen postsecondary education in prison programs in advance of the full restoration of Pell Grant eligibility for incarcerated learners, coming in the 2023-24 academic year.

Our Three Investment Priorities

Grants to Expand Postsecondary Education in Prison

Oregon Statewide PEP Degree Program

Portland State University Foundation|$2,314,924|8/2023 - 6/2028
This grant supports Portland State University Foundation in developing transfer pathways for incarcerated learners in Oregon in partnership with two community colleges. In addition to offering a clear path to a bachelor’s degree, Portland State University and its partners will provide learners with wrap-around supports during incarceration and post-release.

Building a Statewide Data Dashboard for Postsecondary Education in Prison

Coleridge Initiative Inc|$630,530|9/2023 - 8/2026
This grant supports the Coleridge Initiative in strengthening Arkansas’s data infrastructure to develop a data dashboard and conduct policy-relevant research on postsecondary education in prison. This project will serve as a model for other states on how to develop and use data to understand and improve postsecondary education in prison.

Employability Skills for HEP Curriculum

The QA Commons Inc|$227,900|8/2023 - 6/2026
This grant supports the QA Commons in integrating employability skills and college transitions supports into the Missouri Department of Corrections' Career and Technical Education programs for incarcerated learners.

Expanding Business Education and Employment Opportunity in Postsecondary Education in Prison Programs

Resilience Education|$2,500,000|5/2023 - 5/2026
This grant supports Resilience Education in expanding a consortium of leading business and law schools delivering credit-bearing business and financial skills courses in prisons. Resilience will develop new curriculum, build partnerships with additional professional schools and corrections facilities and create new employer partnerships to increase the number of learners gaining professional skills and finding employment after release.

Education Justice Tracker

Cornell University|$1,350,000|10/2021 - 12/2025
This grant supports the Cornell Prison Education Program in evolving its incarcerated learner database into a sharable digital tool, while developing models for using this open-source software to improve learner outcomes.

Jesuit Prison Education

Loyola University New Orleans|$1,200,000|12/2022 - 11/2025
This grant supports the Jesuit Prison Education Network (JPEN), a nationwide coalition of Jesuit colleges, in developing best practices and sharing resources to strengthen postsecondary education in prison programs across the network. JPEN and its research center, the Jesuit Social Research Institute, will strengthen the capacity of member programs to evaluate their programs and build capacity for continuous improvement.

Leveraging NCAN Members to Increase Success for Incarcerated Learners

National College Attainment Network|$600,000|10/2023 - 9/2025
This grant supports the National College Attainment Network (NCAN) in developing technical assistance for its members tailored to postsecondary education in prison. With its support, more NCAN members will partner with postsecondary education in prison programs to deliver supportive services to incarcerated learners.

Formerly Incarcerated Leaders Fellowship

Rockwood Leadership Institute|$938,239|8/2023 - 8/2025
This grant supports Rockwood Leadership Institute in developing and piloting a professional learning cohort for formerly incarcerated leaders working within the field of postsecondary education in prison.

Implementing an Evaluability Assessment

Reentry Campus Program|$250,000|12/2022 - 8/2025
This grant supports Reentry Campus Program in continuing to strengthen its core programming aimed at helping incarcerated and formerly incarcerated learners identify a career path, gain college credit and complete degrees and certificates. The grant also supports their capacity to work with an external evaluator to define their unique program model and lay the groundwork for future evaluation.

State Policy Barriers for Students Impacted by the Justice System

Education Commission of the States|$398,101|8/2023 - 4/2025
This grant supports Education Commission of the States in addressing state-level policy gaps and opportunities to strengthen postsecondary education in prison. Its convenings, reports and policy monitoring will inform and encourage state action supportive of incarcerated learners.

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