FSU Joins Consortium Aimed at Expanding Educational Access to Current and Former Prison Inmates

FSU Joins Consortium Aimed at Expanding Educational Access to Current and Former Prison Inmates

Sep 5, 2018

Framingham State University has joined a new consortium of colleges in Massachusetts that will support expanding access to postsecondary education to people currently and formerly in prison statewide. The consortium was established at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) with help from a $250,000 grant from the Vera Institute of Justice (Vera), along with the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.

The consortium, led by a team within the MIT Experimental Study Group, will be tasked with expanding access to postsecondary education by establishing and sustaining an education pipeline at each of Massachusetts’ prisons.

Framingham State already has established partnerships with MCI-Framingham and Middlesex Jail and House of Corrections in Billerica through its Inside-out program, which sends FSU students into the prisons to take classes alongside current inmates.  

“As the country grapples with the epidemic of mass incarceration, we are proud to play a role in expanding access to postsecondary education to current and former inmates,” says FSU President F. Javier Cevallos.  “Education holds the power to transform lives and increase economic opportunities for this largely abandoned population.”

The consortium programming will feature a strong foundation in the humanities as well as career and technical training that begins during incarceration and continues into the community. The consortium will also be responsible for creating academic and career advising specific to the needs of justice-involved students.

In addition to $250,000 in grant funds over three years, the consortium will also receive technical assistance from Vera to support the consortium’s efforts to provide and expand postsecondary educational opportunities in prison and post-release.

“All too often, barriers to reentry start inside prisons only to follow people after they leave,” said Fred Patrick, director of the Center on Sentencing and Corrections at Vera. “This consortium will help establish Massachusetts as a leader in postsecondary education for people who are or were formerly incarcerated, which has a proven track record of transforming lives and communities.”

Because of a federal ban on Pell Grants for people in prison, as well as countless other barriers at individual states, the majority of people in prison are effectively blocked from accessing postsecondary programming. The lack of some form of postsecondary education can limit the employment prospects for people who were formerly incarcerated. Studies show that 65 percent of all new jobs require some postsecondary education. However, only 22 percent of people in state prison have had at least some postsecondary education.

The federal ban as well as other barriers to reentry have helped create a system where the vast majority of people released from prison find themselves back in prison just five years after getting out. Expanding access to postsecondary education, however, has been proven to upend that cycle.

To learn more about this effort, visit www.vera.org.

About Framingham State University

Framingham State University was founded in 1839 as the nation’s first public university for the education of teachers. Since that time, it has evolved into a vibrant, comprehensive liberal arts institution offering small, personalized classes on a beautiful New England campus. Today, the University enrolls more than 6,000 students with 58 undergraduate and graduate degree programs in the arts, humanities, sciences, social sciences and professional fields. As a State College and University (SCU), Framingham State prides itself on quality academic programs, affordability, and commitment to access for all qualified students.