Current studies show that about 37 percent of federal and state prisoners do not have a high school diploma or GED, compared to 19 percent of the general population. As employers’ demands for college credentials grow—an estimated two thirds of jobs will require them by 2018—it is increasingly imperative to offer college education to our most vulnerable populations.

Vera is currently working on two postsecondary education in prison projects:

  • Expanding Access to Postsecondary Education (EAPSE) provides expert information and technical assistance to state departments of corrections, colleges and universities, and state and local policymakers selected for the Second Chance Pell Experimental Sites Initiative of the U.S. Department of Education. The project, through support from the U.S. Department of Justice’s Bureau of Justice Assistance, facilitates partnerships between colleges and prisons to provide educational opportunities for currently and formerly incarcerated people.
  • Pathways from Prison to Postsecondary Education is a five-year, Vera-led initiative that provides selected states (Michigan, New Jersey, and North Carolina) with incentive funding and technical assistance to expand postsecondary education for currently and formerly incarcerated people. The project is unique for its emphasis on coordination between pre- and post-release programming, encouraging partnerships between officials, corrections and parole agencies, schools, employers, and service providers. By demonstrating that postsecondary education—combined with supportive reentry services—can reduce recidivism and increase employability and earnings, the project hopes to spur national replication and long-term public investment.

Providing college education opportunities to incarcerated people is important for a number of reasons:

  • It helps to end mass incarceration by reducing recidivism and providing people the resources for post-release success;
  • It strengthens families and communities by helping formerly incarcerated people become economically stable and remain with their families rather than returning to prison; and
  • It saves taxpayer money by yielding a $5 to $1 return on investment over three years (due to reduced recidivism and increased employment and stability for formerly incarcerated people and their families).

EAPSE has been funded by the Department of Justice Bureau of Justice Assistance, ECMC Foundation, and the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.

Pathways is funded by the Ford Foundation, the Sunshine Lady Foundation, the Open Society Foundations, the W. K. Kellogg Foundation, and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

To learn more about requesting technical assistance to support postsecondary education in your state, please email Margaret diZerega at

"Postsecondary education programs give incarcerated people the education, confidence, and skills they need in order to return to their community ready to contribute, not recidivate. I have seen firsthand the positive impact that the Pathways from Prison Project has on students and the prison environment and I strongly encourage other jurisdictions to provide their own incarcerated populations with the opportunity to learn and grow.”
David Guice
(Retired) Commissioner of the North Carolina Division of Adult Correction and Juvenile Justice