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Washburn expands education programs at Kansas prison – Newstalk KZRG

Topeka, Kan. – Residents of the Topeka Correctional Facility (TCF,) an all-women’s prison, have more opportunities to earn certificates and degrees at Washburn University and Washburn Institute of Technology (Washburn Tech) thanks to expansion of the Second Chance Pell program.

The US Department of Education launched the Second Chance Pell program in 2015 for incarcerated individuals to allow them to participate in postsecondary education programs. Washburn applied to the US Department of Education in 2019 to take part in the program and was approved in 2020. Washburn is also a member of the Kansas Consortium on Correctional Higher Education, which was formed in 2020 by the Kansas Department of Corrections (KDOC) , several Kansas colleges and the Kansas Board of Regents.

The coordinated efforts between Washburn University, Washburn Tech and KDOC allows residents in the minimum-security section of the TCF to work towards a general education diploma, a certificate in industrial production technology or an associate’s or bachelor’s degree. By completing one or more of Washburn’s programs, TCF residents have a better chance of finding employment after their release.

“Washburn has become the great institution it is today by always having our community’s interest in mind,” said Dr. Laura Stephenson, interim vice president of academic affairs at Washburn University. “This program provides TCF residents a path forward after they are released, a chance that will positively affect Topeka.”

According to KDOC, approximately 98 percent of men and women in Kansas prisons today will return to live as our neighbors and members of our society.

  • About 40 percent of residents at TCF do not hold a high school diploma; this is similar to the percentage of all people who are incarcerated in Kansas who do not have a high school diploma.
  • A study conducted in 2016 by the RAND Corporation noted that when education classes of any level were offered within correctional facilities, there was a 43 percent reduction of individuals returning to prison after their release.

Washburn has been offering an associate of liberal studies degree program since 2021 at TCF. It has grown from 25 students to about 70 students in the program today. Upon completion of an associate of liberal studies degree, students have the opportunity to continue their higher education by pursuing a bachelor of integrated studies degree through Washburn.

Washburn Tech began offering a GED program and a certificate in industrial production technology at TCF earlier this year.

“Access to wage-earning certifications is of value to everyone,” said Chaz Havens, director of academic sites and initiatives at Washburn Tech. “The GED is required to enter a technical education program. Once that is accomplished, they have the credentials needed to pursue a technical certification, which is required to secure jobs in manufacturing arenas and industrial settings. It’s important they take steps to boost their employability.”

“By giving TCF residents the ability to earn their education, Washburn University and Washburn Tech, with the partnership of KDOC, are helping to provide life-changing degrees and certifications,” said Ilia Jones, Washburn University’s corrections education coordinator.

These programs are paid for entirely by the students’ own Pell grants and the KDOC, and the courses are taught by a combination of adjunct and full-time Washburn instructors.

Washburn University is the only four-year institution in Kansas offering accredited distance education in correctional facilities.

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