IHEP report looks at impact of higher education on U.S. prison population

college degree

by Jeff Goldman | May 18, 2011

On May 4, the Institute for Higher Education Policy (IHEP) released a report that recommends postsecondary correctional education (PSCE) as a way to reduce recidivism for the approximately 2.3 million people imprisoned in the U.S. every year. According to the report, 70 percent of formerly incarcerated people, left without access to education past the secondary level, are more than likely to return to prison within three years.

The IHEP report, "Unlocking Potential: Results of a National Survey of Postsecondary Education in State Prisons," [PDF file] examines data from 43 states on postsecondary education programs in their prison systems, regarding student enrollments and completions, instructional methods, eligibility requirements, and funding sources.

"Limited postsecondary educational opportunity in prison may reduce an incarcerated person's likelihood of returning to prison after being released, which should be a concern to all as social conditions are exacerbated by high incarceration levels," IHEP President Michelle Asha Cooper, PhD, said in a statement.

Key findings include the following:

  • Approximately 71,000 people (about 6 percent of the prison population) were enrolled in vocational or academic postsecondary education programs for the 2009-10 academic year.
  • 13 "high-enrollment" states (with more than 1,000 incarcerated students enrolled) accounted for 86 percent of all incarcerated postsecondary students in state prison systems included in the study.
  • During the 2009-10 academic year, approximately 9,900 incarcerated people earned a certificate, 2,200 associate's degrees were awarded, and almost 400 students earned bachelor's degrees.
  • Due to the fact that incarcerated students don't have access to federal- and state-based financial aid, about 95 percent of responding states are relying on federal grant programs (most commonly the Workforce and Community Transitions Training for Incarcerated Individuals program).

The report also makes the following three policy recommendations:

  • To address capacity challenges that limit access to postsecondary education in prisons, federal and state statutes and regulations should be revised to support the development and expansion of Internet-based delivery of such education.
  • To increase educational attainment, support economic development, and make efficient use of limited public funding, postsecondary correctional education programs should be closely aligned with state postsecondary education systems and local workforce needs.
  • To support increased access to postsecondary education in prisons, federal and state statutes should be amended to make specific categories of incarcerated persons eligible for need-based financial aid.

The IHEP report is based on results from a national survey sent to state correctional education administrators. Only 43 states responded--states that did not respond included Alabama, Colorado, Connecticut, Illinois, Kentucky, Pennsylvania and Virginia.

For related news and other coverage from Schools.com, see:


Read More [+]

Searching Searching ...

Prefer exploring school options talking to our staff? Call toll free now: 1.855.816.4004
Call toll free now
Matching School Ads
  • All
  • Art & Design
  • Business
  • Education
  • Engineering & Construction
  • Health
  • Hospitality & Culinary
  • Law & Criminal Justice
  • Liberal Arts & Humanities
  • Science
  • Social Science
  • Technology & IT
  • Vocational
Degree/Diploma Offered
  • All
  • Associate Degree
  • Bachelor Degree
  • Certificate Program
  • Coursework Program
  • Diploma Program
  • Doctoral Program
  • Master Degree
Location Type


  • Both
  • Online
  • Campus
Zip/Postal Code
  • Alumni have appeared in reality competition shows such as Top Chef, Project Runway.
  • A team of about 4,000 faculty members are focused on helping students tap opportunities in a marketplace driven by ideas.
  • Academic programs available in design, media arts, fashion, and culinary
  • Program Coordinators work with students to ensure they have the learning materials, assignments, facilities, and faculty to get the most out of the program.
  • Over 50 campus locations nationwide.

Give your career a boost with University of Saint Mary. We offer online degree programs at the undergraduate and graduate levels to help make your educational and professional goals a reality.

  • Phoenix Career Services™ help students find careers that match their interests & map out a personalized career plan.
  • Average class size is 14 students.
  • Faculty members average 16 years of experience in their field.
  • Mentorships & networking opportunities available through Alumni Association of 800,000+ graduates. 
  • Students & alumni can access job posts from top corporations, including AT&T, Hitachi & MGM Resorts.
  • Flexible start date and class schedules.
  • 100+ locations and online options.

Founded in 1946 and located in the heart of Central New York, Utica College is a regionally accredited*, independent, private institution that features many of the advantages of a large university -- such as undergraduate and graduate degree options, excellent academics, and outstanding faculty -- with the intimacy and high degree of personal attention more closely associated with smaller private institutions.

  • Founded in Southern California in 1998 by dog training expert Steven Appelbaum, it is the largest independent dog training company in the United States.
  • As of May 2013, the total student body was 24,485
  • Provides dog obedience training classes in all Petco stores in the U.S. and Petcetera Warehouse stores in Canada. 
  • Is part of the MyCAA Financial Assistance program, which offers eligible military spouses up to $4,000 of tuition assistance that can be used towards any course offered by Animal Behavior College.
  • Offers Blackboard Learn mobile app that allows students to complete assignments on the go.
  • Approximately 200 staff exclusively focused on helping students get externships, jobs, prepare their resumes, and prepare for interviews.
  • Live tutoring labs available to help students improve their knowledge and understanding of the coursework.
  • Has offered healthcare degree or diploma programs in nursing, pharmacy technician, and more since 1994.
  • Admission is on a rolling basis, with programs starting each month. 
  • Transfer credits are accepted if they meet criteria.  
  • Course homepages provide students with access to instructors, classmates, assignments, projects, & grades. 
  • Original educational media is custom-developed by the Full Sail Instructional Design team.  
  • Career Development Department helps students edit resumes & research the job market. It also maintains an updated record of potential employers in the industry.
Matching School Ads

About the Author

Jeff Goldman is a freelance journalist based in Los Angeles.