SUNY Expands Educational Support for Current and Formerly Incarcerated Individuals Through Mellon Foundation Partnership

July 15, 2022

Three-Year $1.5 Million Grant Will Help Campuses Develop High-Quality College Programs, Increase The Number of State Prisons Served

Collection Of Post-Release Employment, Wage Data To Inform Plan That Improves Student Success

State University of New York today announced plans to expand its support for current and formerly incarcerated individuals through its partnership with the Mellon Foundation. Through a three-year $1.5 million grant from the Mellon Foundation, the SUNY system will assist campuses in developing high-quality college programs to better meet the needs of this underserved population and also work to increase the number of state prisons served by SUNY from 20 to 30.

SUNY is New York’s largest provider of college-in-prison programs, with 700 students enrolled across 20 state prisons and one federal facility. However, only 4.3 percent of incarcerated individuals attended some college in 2022. To increase participation, SUNY’s Higher Education for the Justice-Involved team will work with campuses to develop and expand programming and collect post-release employment and wage data to help determine how to best improve student success. By the Fall of 2023, SUNY degrees will be offered inside at least 25 state prisons.

The expansion follows the return of the New York State Tuition Assistance Program for incarcerated individuals as part of Governor Kathy Hochul’s State of the State and funded in the Fiscal Year 2023 budget.

“Access to higher education is an essential part of the journey for individuals who have been or are currently incarcerated to make a new start and succeed in the long term,” said SUNY Interim Chancellor Deborah F. Stanley. “I applaud our dedicated faculty and staff for bringing academic programs and support to incarcerated individuals. Through our partnership with the Mellon Foundation and renewed tuition assistance from New York State, for which we are thankful, we can help create positive change for more people once or still in the system.”

As part of the partnership, SUNY will support college-in-prison programs by:

  • Working to ensure all state correctional facilities offer incarcerated individuals the chance to enroll in a public higher-education program;
  • Working with New York State Department of Corrections and Community Supervision and SUNY campus prison education programs to make evidence-based improvements in state policies and program operations;
  • Identifying and making available educational resources and expertise that can help SUNY college-in-prison programs and justice-involved students;
  • Educating citizens, journalists, policymakers, academicians, correctional staff, and other stakeholders about the process, character, and value of higher education for justice-involved people; and
  • Continuing and expanding research and data collection pertaining to these students’ outcomes, completion, and experience.

“College-in-prison programs can be an important step in expanding access and achieving equitable outcomes for those who have been disproportionally impacted by the criminal justice system and who also have traditionally been overlooked and underserved by colleges and universities,” SUNY’s Higher Education for the Justice Involved (HEJI) Director Rachel Sander says. “This grant renewal will allow us to serve currently and formerly incarcerated New Yorkers in ways that not only promote their success, but the well-being of their families and communities.”

Thirteen SUNY campuses currently have college-in-prison programs, including: SUNY Adirondack, Cayuga County Community College, Columbia-Greene Community College, SUNY Corning, Genesee Community College, Herkimer County Community College, Jefferson Community College, Mohawk Valley Community College, North Country Community College, SUNY Potsdam, Purchase College, SUNY Sullivan, and SUNY Ulster. Three more are in the process of developing programs: University at Buffalo, SUNY Empire State College, and Jamestown Community College by Fall 2023.

About the State University of New York
The State University of New York is the largest comprehensive system of higher education in the United States, and more than 95 percent of all New Yorkers live within 30 miles of any one of SUNY’s 64 colleges and universities. Across the system, SUNY has four academic health centers, five hospitals, four medical schools, two dental schools, a law school, the country’s oldest school of maritime, the state’s only college of optometry, and manages one US Department of Energy National Laboratory. In total, SUNY serves about 1.4 million students amongst its entire portfolio of credit- and non-credit-bearing courses and programs, continuing education, and community outreach programs. SUNY oversees nearly a quarter of academic research in New York. Research expenditures system-wide are nearly $1.1 billion in fiscal year 2023, including significant contributions from students and faculty. There are more than three million SUNY alumni worldwide, and one in three New Yorkers with a college degree is a SUNY alum. To learn more about how SUNY creates opportunities, visit

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