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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.

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.

Download The PDF
Graph showing: 64% of the people in prison are academically eligible to enroll in a postsecondary education program. Graph showing: Of the approximately 4500 degree-granting colleges and universities, less than 7% provide in-prison higher education

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

Transforming Higher Education Policy and Practice in Prisons and Beyond

Exploration
The Education Trust Inc|$815,000|5/2020 - 11/2023
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.

Optimizing Delivery Systems for Higher Education in Prison

Exploration
University of Wisconsin-Madison|$150,000|8/2021 - 7/2023
This grant supports the University of Wisconsin-Madison, in partnership with the State of Wisconsin Department of Corrections, in preparing to launch their Prison Education Initiative to offer baccalaureate degrees, competency-based degrees, certificate programs and stackable credentials to incarcerated adults across Wisconsin.

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.

Unlocking the Promise of Pell for Students in Prison

Scaling
Vera Institute of Justice Inc|$1,100,000|4/2020 - 12/2022
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 - 12/2022
This grant supports The 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|$230,014|5/2020 - 5/2022
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.

Career Navigator Initiative

Validation
The RAND Corporation|$495,696|1/2018 - 1/2022
This grant supports The RAND Corporation in assessing the implementation of the Minnesota Department of Corrections (MNDOC) Career Navigator Initiative. RAND will analyze MNDOC's development and implementation of services, take-rate of Career Navigator services and students’ success in finding related employment or continuing college after release.

Optimizing Delivery Systems for Higher Education in Prison

Exploration
Iowa Department of Education|$150,000|1/2020 - 8/2021
This grant supports the Iowa Department of Education, in partnership with the Iowa Department of Corrections, Iowa Central Community College, Des Moines Area Community College and the University of Iowa, in developing a plan for expanded postsecondary education options across Iowa that are workforce-relevant and support varied academic and career pathways.

Higher Education in Prison Landscape Project

Exploration
Alliance for Higher Education in Prison|$925,000|7/2019 - 8/2021
This grant supports the Alliance for Higher Education in Prison in building a national database of higher education in prison programs and associated data.

Optimizing Delivery Systems for Higher Education in Prison

Exploration
CUNY Institute for State and Local Governance|$150,000|1/2020 - 6/2021
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.

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