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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.

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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

Teaching and Learning Initiative

Exploration
Mount Tamalpais College|$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
State of Minnesota Department of Corrections|$150,000|1/2020 - 4/2021
This grant supports 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, in preparing to launch their “College at Prison” effort to reimagine postsecondary education offerings across all prison facilities in Minnesota.

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