A new report from Ithaka S+R attempts to survey the landscape for postsecondary education in prisons. As did another recently released paper, the report describes a "watershed moment" for prison-based college programs, noting many challenges and precautions amid bipartisan support for expanding such programs.
Several members of the U.S. Congress and the Trump administration have said they support dropping a ban on incarcerated students receiving federal Pell Grants.
"Unique challenges aside, many of the issues important to improving postsecondary educational attainment across American higher education are also relevant to improving outcomes for incarcerated students," Catharine Bond Hill, managing director of Ithaka S+R, a nonprofit research group, said in a written statement. "What should be the balance between a liberal education and coursework more directly focused on jobs? How can we relax the difficulties of transferring credits earned in one program to another in order to improve graduation rates and time to graduation? What role should technology play in scaling higher education at lower cost? What role should the for-profit sector play? All of these issues are important to both improving outcomes for students generally and for students in prison working toward a postsecondary degree."
Despite the "exponential growth" of the U.S. prison population during the last 50 years, access to prison-based education has remained flat, the report said (see below).
The group's next phase of related research will seek to describe means of supporting incarcerated students to maximize their results from enrolling in prison-based postsecondary education.