By Amanda Petrucelli
WASHINGTON, D.C. – If you’ve been incarcerated, Ancilla College and the Obama Administration want to make it easier for you to get your degree.
Ancilla is one of 15 institutions at the White House this morning, June 10, 2016, with Education Secretary John King and Domestic Policy Council Director Cecilia Muñoz standing with the Obama Administration as founding partners in launching the Fair Chance Higher Education Pledge, which helps the formerly incarcerated acquire higher education through grants and fair reentry processes.
The Administration has been committed to reforming America’s criminal justice system and expanding college opportunity.
“Ancilla is honored to join effort to create more opportunities for education and training to people starting over again after incarceration,” said Ancilla College President Dr. Ken Zirkle outside the White House.
Watch this WNDU report on the college’s pledge here.
Right now, there are 2.2 million Americans behind bars, and more than 600,000 inmates are released each year. An estimated 70 million or more Americans have some sort of criminal record — almost one in five of all Americans; almost one in three Americans of working age.
“It’s part of our mission to serve the community, everyone in our community, and provide an opportunity for everyone to earn a college education,” Zirkle said. “Too often, a criminal record disqualifies Americans from being full participants in our society — even after they’ve already paid their debt to society. This includes admissions processes for educational institutions that can make it difficult if not impossible for those with criminal records to get an education that can lead to a job.”
The administration is hosting 15 higher education public and private institutions from across the country and 25 have signed the pledge: Ancilla College, Arizona State University, Auburn University, Boston University, City University of New York, College of Saint Benedict, Columbia University, Eastern University, Howard University, New York University, North Park University, Nyack College, Raritan Valley Community College, Rutgers University (Biomedical and Health Sciences, Camden, Newark and New Brunswick), Saint John’s University, San Francisco State University, State University of New York, Union Theological Seminary in the City of New York, University of California System, University of Pittsburgh at Bradford, University of Puget Sound and University of Washington.
Together, these institutions represent and serve more than one million students. More information about the pledge is available HERE.
In July 2015, President Obama highlighted the importance of reducing barriers facing people who have been in contact with the criminal justice system and are trying to put their lives back on track, and emphasized that a smarter approach to reducing crime and enhancing public safety must begin with investing in all of our communities.
Indiana has a prison population in transition with thousands of men and women moving from county jails, state and federal prisons back to their communities without much of a chance to get an education or training. “We need to make it clear that a criminal conviction doesn’t end the future. Ancilla may not be as big as other schools but we can offer people a chance to start over, learn and become educated, valuable members of their communities,” said Ancilla’s Vice President of enrollment Eric Wignall.
President Obama said, “That’s bad for not only those individuals, it’s bad for our economy. It’s bad for the communities that desperately need more role models who are gainfully employed. So we’ve got to make sure Americans who’ve paid their debt to society can earn their second chance.”
Today’s announcement provides higher education institutions and a broad array of coalitions with an opportunity to voice their support for the reforms needed to remove unnecessary barriers to college access.
By signing the Fair Chance Higher Education Pledge, these higher education institutions are:
Demonstrating an ongoing commitment to take action to reduce barriers to a fair shot at a second chance, especially though an educational opportunity, including adopting fair chance admissions practices like going “Beyond the Box” by determining whether criminal justice-related questions are necessary to make an informed admission decision, and if so, whether these questions should be moved to a later part of the application process (e.g., after schools make an initial admission decision or after students meet the academic criteria), or whether the initial review of the application can be conducted without knowledge of the answers to the criminal-justice related questions.
Taking action in their local communities by supporting professors and students who want to teach or are teaching in correctional facilities and ensuring internships and job training are available to individuals with criminal records.
Setting an example for their peers. The Fair Chance Higher Education Pledge is available for more higher education institutions to sign on. The Obama Administration will highlight these additional pledge takers later this year.
Last month the Department of Education released The “Beyond the Box” Resource Guide. The Guide provides information for colleges and universities to help remove barriers that can prevent citizens with criminal records from pursuing higher education. The guide also encourages alternatives to inquiring about criminal histories during college admissions and provides recommendations to support a holistic review of applicants. More information is available HERE.
Earlier this year, the White House launched the Fair Chance Business Pledge, a call-to-action for all members of the private sector to improve their communities by eliminating barriers in employment for those with a criminal record and creating a pathway for a second chance. Over 100 organizations have joined the pledge, including: American Airlines, The Coca-Cola Company, Facebook, Georgia Pacific, Google, The Hershey Company, The Johns Hopkins Hospital and Health System, Koch Industries, PepsiCo, Prudential, Starbucks, Uber, Under Amour/Plank Industries, Unilever and Xerox.
THE FAIR CHANCE HIGHER EDUCATION PLEDGE
We applaud the growing number of public and private colleges and universities nationwide who are taking action to ensure that all Americans have the opportunity to succeed, including individuals who have had contact with the criminal justice system. When an estimated 70 million or more Americans — nearly one in three adults — have a criminal record, it is important to remove unnecessary barriers that may prevent these individuals from gaining access to education and training that can be so critical to career success and lead to a fulfilled and productive life. We are committed to providing individuals with criminal records, including formerly incarcerated individuals, a fair chance to seek a higher education to obtain the knowledge and skills needed to contribute to our Nation’s growing economy.