Catholic Colleges Take the Fair Chance Higher Education Pledge

In summer 2016, the White House took a stride forward in removing barriers to participation in society for individuals returning from prison or returning citizens by launching the Fair Chance Pledge. Meant for businesses and institutions of higher education, the pledge commits signatories to committing to reducing barriers to a second chance at societal participation, to acting on this commitment in their local communities, and being an example for peer institutions and businesses.

Among institutions of higher education, taking the Pledge means “adopting fair chance admissions practices like going ‘Beyond the Box‘” by reconsidering whether questions related to criminal history are necessary for admissions applications. Additionally, the Pledge symbolizes a commitment to continue “supporting professors or students who want to teach or are teaching in correctional facilities and ensuring internships and job training are available to individuals with criminal records.”

ACCU member institutions Ancilla College, College of Saint Benedict and Saint John’s University have taken the Pledge. We look forward to hearing about the advances these and other schools have made towards removing barriers for returning citizens.

Learn more about the Fair Chance Higher Education Pledge here.

Peace and Justice in ACCU’s Fall Newsletter

ACCU recently released the fall edition of Update, our quarterly newsletter. Read Update in full here. Peace and Justice highlights include:

Global Solidarity Grants Increase Awareness of Catholic Social Teaching at Benedictine University, Cabrini College, Dominican University, St. Norbert’s College, and the University of St. Thomas (TX).

Catholic Colleges Bring Higher Education to the Incarcerated: Saint Francis College, Donnelly College, Holy Cross College, University of Notre Dame, and La Salle University implement programs to bring higher education to those incarcerated.

Spring Hill Alumni Participate in Inaugural Service Trip to Belize where they worked building homes.

Loyola Chicago Students Donate Care Packages to Soldiers serving in Iraq through a partnership with Aramark by using the remaining balance on meal plan to purchase care package materials

Loras Student Wins Interfaith Leadership Award- Recent graduate Samantha Eckrich was awarded the Mike Hammer Interfaith Leadership Award, which recognized her effort in promoting interfaith cooperation on campus.

To subscribe to Update, please email Paula Moore.

Two Catholic Colleges Awarded Second Chance Pell Grant

Earlier this year, the U.S. Department of Education awarded 67 colleges and universities with Second Chance Pell grants, to be used to off-set or even cover the costs of tuition for incarcerated individuals pursuing an associate’s or bachelor’s degree. According to the U.S. Department of Education, the pilot program is meant to “build on existing research to examine the effects of restoring Pell eligibility.”

The Second Chance Pell grant pilot will have a significant impact on the students receiving the grants. According to a 2013 RAND Corporation study, offenders who participate in education programs while in prison are 43 percent less likely to return to prison within three years. In reducing re-incarceration or recidivism, RAND estimates that every dollar spent on prison education programs will save four to five dollars on re-incarceration costs.

Knowing that prison or correctional education programs have this kind of effect on offenders, over 200 institutions of higher education applied for Second Chance Pell, Inside Higher Ed reports. Of the 67 that were chosen to receive the grants, two Catholic colleges were chosen: Holy Cross College and Villanova University. Among the two institutions, the grants will be awarded to a total of 125 students.  Congratulations to these two institutions and their students!

How does your college or university educate incarcerated and formerly incarcerated individuals? Let us know! 

Department of Education Releases ‘Beyond the Box’ Resource Guide

With the awarding of 67 Second Chance Pell Grants and the launching of the Fair Chance Higher Education Pledge, the White House and the Department of Education are making impressive efforts to offer both incarcerated individuals and individuals returning from prison or returning citizens an opportunity to not only pursue higher education, but also to obtain meaningful employment. In another stride towards removing barriers from societal participation for these individuals, the Department of Education has also released a resource guide for institutions and businesses seeking to go ‘Beyond the Box.

Referring to the box or question on admissions and job applications regarding criminal history, ‘Beyond the Box’ is an initiative that seeks to “increase access to higher education for justice-involved individuals,” as the resource guide states. The guide gives important background information on the near impossibility to access higher education and employment after incarceration, the benefits of providing access to returning citizens, and a step-by-step guide for institutions considering going ‘Beyond the Box.’

For the 600,000 people who re-enter society each year in the United States, it is the hope of the ‘Beyond the Box’ initiative to show that their success is indeed possible.

Will your college or university go ‘Beyond the Box’? Let us know! 

Courageous Voices: Challenging Stereotypes and Upholding Human Dignity

Students in Manhattan College‘s “Engaging, Educating, Empowering Means Change” course meet for class at Rikers Island jail complex, with an equal number of prisoners enrolled in the course as their classmates. The primary goal is to correct the common perception that people who live in poverty, especially those with a criminal record, are unworthy of the social privileges that the college’s students enjoy. The course gives an opportunity for the students from Manhattan College and Rikers Island to build relationships with one another, challenging common assumptions and stereotypes about those who live on the margins of society.  Upon their release, the formerly incarcerated students have an opportunity to attend the college. Administrators have noted that when the two groups of students reunite on campus, they tend to look out for one another – and both become advocates for reform of the prison system.

To learn more about the course, read the article “The Prison Class” in America.

Over the next few weeks, we will release short stories about the courageous voices of our member colleges and universities.  Stay tuned to hear about how students, faculty, and staff are responding to Pope Francis’s call to social justice and a culture of encounter.  If you are still curious about how Catholic colleges and universities are promoting social justice on campus, read the original blog post on the Courageous Voices series, or check out ACCU’s inventory of promising practices, which includes many examples of our members engaging with Catholic Social Teaching.