More than 2,500 Texas inmates will participate in a national experiment starting next month, using federal money to take college courses, according to a report in the Texas Tribune by Khorri Atkinson and Annie Daniel.
Three of the nine Texas schools participating in the national pilot—Mountain View College in Dallas, Southwest Texas Junior College in Uvalde, and Wiley College (a private institution) in Marshall—will be offering prison-based education for the first time. The programs include a mixture of liberal arts and vocational training courses.
For Lee College's prison program in Huntsville, the pilot would build on a 50-year-old program offering certificates and associate's degrees to offenders in the Texas prison system. The school currently teaches about 1,200 inmates, according to Donna Zuniga, dean of the college's Huntsville Center, who is quoted in the piece. Federal funding will allow enrollment to grow.
Cedar Valley College in Lancaster is using the federal aid to reestablish its prison education program. Ruben Johnson, executive dean of the college's Business and Technology Division, said budget cuts at the Texas Department of Criminal Justice had forced the school to stop offering certificates and associate's degrees to inmates in 2012, after more than 10 years. Now, about 120 inmates from the Sanders Estes Correctional Center in Venus are expected to enroll in its air Conditioning and refrigeration technology certificate program, the article reports.
Using tax dollars to fund education for inmates can be unpopular, especially since financial aid programs are short of funds.
Please see other Texas colleges affected at the conclusion of the Tribune piece.
A 2013 RAND Corporation study funded by the Department of Justice found that inmates who participated in correctional education programs were 43 percent less likely to return to prison. Those inmates were also 13 percent more likely to have a job after finishing their sentence.