The New England Commission on the Future of Higher Education in Prison (“the Commission”) was a key initiative of the New England Board of Higher Education (NEBHE) and The Educational Justice Institute at MIT (TEJI) chaired by Drs. Lee Perlman and Michael K. Thomas.
While the Commission’s origins were regional, it sought to catalyze a national initiative and assume a broader leadership role in the United States.
The Commission’s 83 members worked to develop 15 recommendations to align institutions, policymakers, prisons, and industry to increase the academic, socioemotional and career readiness of system-involved people—and facilitate their successful transitions to work and sustained contributions to the well-being of the region and nation. 20% of the Commission’s membership were comprised of system-involved leaders and advocates.
On June 7, 2023, the Commission delivered its final report with recommendations for higher education leaders, policymakers, departments of correction and employers ahead of the July 2023 reinstatement of Pell Grants for eligible incarcerated students.
Accordingly, key areas for investigation and deliberation by the Commission included:
Credential Completion and Time to Degree
- Scaling access and credential completion despite transfer and release (two impediments to degree completion)
- Integrating credential pathways across institutions and the use of technology/remote education delivery, a successful method during the Covid-19 pandemic
- Program and policy innovations to address timely completion of degrees, including pathways back to higher education institutions post-release
- Providing comprehensive access to liberal arts, STEM and CTE training depending on incarcerated students’ skills and interests
Labor Market Success and Upward Socioeconomic Mobility
- Engaging business leaders to address align educational and thriving-wage career opportunities, as well as identify strategies to increase hiring of people who start or complete a degree behind bars in high-growth careers
- Program and support service improvements to provide better career counseling and post-release “learn and earn” models to support students’ workplace and economic success
Members of the Commission on the Future of Higher Education in Prison had the opportunity to join one of four unique Working Groups, each with a specific focus in an area relevant to the prison education and employment systems. Working groups convened in-person and remotely six times over the course of the Commission.
Resource: Member-Created “Regional MOU Template”*
In addition to curating recommendations for the Commission’s final report, members of the Partnerships & Policy Alignment Working Group created a “Regional MOU Template” over the course of the Commission. This document may serve as a resource for states seeking to strengthen student-centered and equity-focused agreements between higher education institutions and departments of correction.
Click here to access the member-created “Regional MOU Template.”