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ERIC Number: EJ952763
Record Type: Journal
Publication Date: 2011
Pages: 6
Abstractor: ERIC
ISSN: ISSN-0009-1383
What Can College Mean? Lessons from the Bard Prison Initiative
Lagemann, Ellen Condliffe
Change: The Magazine of Higher Learning, v43 n6 p14-19 2011
The Bard Prison Initiative (BPI), which is a part of the Bard College in Annandale-on-Hudson, New York, is a prison program that operates a full liberal arts program leading to both AA and BA degrees. The students are convicted felons who are serving relatively long sentences for serious, often violent, crimes. They tend to be in their mid-twenties, although some are as old forty-five. Most (83 percent) had not graduated from high school before being incarcerated; they received GED degrees while in prison. BPI is extremely successful in its completion rates. Few student flunk or drop out. Most who do not finish their degrees cannot do so because they are moved by the Department of Corrections to a facility where BPI does not have a program or because they are released from prison. There are three aspects of the Bard program that are especially critical to its success: (1) the admissions process; (2) the approach to skill development; and (3) a blurring of the lines between liberal and vocational education. BPI offers a demonstration proof of college success under unusual circumstances. Whether one believes that its effectiveness can be useful in thinking about practices and policies for higher education more generally, there can be no doubt that it is offering educational opportunity to a woefully underserved segment of the American population. Nevertheless, BPI operates under the constant threat of having to shut its doors. Since 1994 public funding for college in prison has dried up, and there is little hope of restoration. More alarming, the major private philanthropies that have invested so generously in higher education have so far refused to include college in prison in their grant-making portfolios. The success of BPI must challenge advocates of higher education to consider whether "college for all" remains a goal to which this country is committed. Is college only for those whose lives proceed in a linear fashion? Is it only for people who have never made a mistake? Is it only for the advantaged? BPI demonstrates what the answers to those questions should be. Certainly, it shows that those questions deserve full and frank debate.
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Publication Type: Journal Articles; Reports - Descriptive
Education Level: Adult Education; Higher Education; Postsecondary Education
Audience: N/A
Language: English
Sponsor: N/A
Authoring Institution: N/A
Identifiers - Location: New York