California community colleges look to expand opportunities for formerly incarcerated students
- Glendale Community College is planning to expand an existing program to support formerly incarcerated students by applying for a multimillion-dollar grant from the California Community College Chancellor's Office, according to a story from KPCC radio. The institution — one of several Southern California community colleges to begin targeting this group of potential students — plans to use the funds to hire counselors and outreach officers who can help this population use education as a personal stepping stone.
- Community colleges are ideal for ex-offenders because they offer flexible certificate and degree programs alongside lower entry standards that provide students the freedom to acclimate to a learning environment and discourage recidivism among participants, said Debbie Mukamal, executive director of Stanford University’s criminal justice center in an interview with KPCC.
- Mukamal said she conducted a survey and found that 78% of California Community Colleges colleges have launched or are seeking to launch initiatives around formerly imprisoned students because of a greater national focus on lowering the incarceration rate.
The Obama administration made an earnest effort in 2016 to expand educational opportunities for incarcerated students, focusing on extending Pell Grant assistance for learners who demonstrated a commitment to educational discipline and were on the verge of release within five years. The goal for this initiative was reducing recidivism and the costs and consequences associated with reentry; but for today’s college climate, the stakes are much higher for institutions’ efforts to maintain enrollment and community outreach branding.
Now institutions that are hard pressed to increase student diversity among socioeconomic lines can look toward how these community colleges are targeting these nontraditional students, along with veterans and working adult learners, in order to more effectively create outreach efforts and up enrollment. Increasingly, community colleges are taking steps to innovate — due to a more flexible environment — in the way it attracts and handles diverse student bodies. As West Virginia University president Gordon Gee explained at a Committee on Economic Development of the Conference Board briefing on reauthorization of the Higher Education Act this week, the industry has an issue or arrogance, and institutions can do a better job of looking toward their community college counterparts for insight on how to target students with myriad backgrounds:
"We need to have partners instead of adversaries, the community college system is the open door to the American dream. we live in a bubble of arrogance, we need to stop thinking that way. Just as an example, we created 13 million jobs, and only 800,000 require a high school education. That's not to say the other 12 million require a college education; they just require some form of higher learning," he said. "We have got to start thinking about education as pre-k through life and having continual relationship between these institutions throughout the pipeline."
With several initiatives underway with the goal of attracting more non-traditional learners, these types of programs may be among the highly-sought after institutional partners for foundations and governments looking to fund educational prototypes designed to reach adult students.
- Southern California Public Radio Community colleges ramping up services for formerly incarcerated students
- Education Dive $30M Pell grant initiative for prisoners announced by U.S. Dept. of Ed.
- Education Dive Strada invests $15 million to study adult learners