New York was the first state in the country to announce that residents can get a free college education.
And yesterday, it made waves once more when it announced it’d be expanding that offering to inmates in 17 state prisons.
What is the College-in-Prison Reentry Program?
At the moment, only 1,000 New York prisoners — out of more than 77,000 — are enrolled in college courses, reported the New York Times. The majority of the programs that educate them are privately funded.
“These classes carry long waitlists and standardization across programs is often lacking,” stated a press release from New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo. “These factors prevent many inmates from making significant progress toward the completion of a degree.”
To overcome these challenges, Cuomo has launched the College-in-Prison Reentry Program. It will offer a free college education to 2,500 inmates at 17 prisons over the next five years.
Courses start in September and will be taught by professors from nearby universities: Bard, Cornell, Medaille, Mercy, NYU, and the Mohawk Valley and Jefferson community colleges.
Any inmate with five years or less on their sentence is eligible for the program and could earn an associate’s or bachelor’s degree or certificate.
Why and how New York is offering a free college education
Cuomo introduced a similar plan in 2014, but dropped the idea after criticism from Republicans who refused to back so-called “Attica University.”
This new $7.3 million program won’t rely on public money. Instead, its funding comes from criminal asset forfeitures made by Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus R. Vance Jr.
These forfeitures are part of $808 million in criminal penalties Vance won from three international banks — funds which, by law, have to go toward criminal justice projects.
“It makes no sense to send someone to prison with no pathway for them to succeed when they get out,” said Vance. “Investing in college education programs is a proven, cost-effective way to break the harmful cycle of recidivism and keep our communities safe.”
Research supports that idea. “Inmates who participate in correctional education programs have 43 percent lower odds of returning to prison than those who do not,” found a 2013 RAND Corporation study on education in prisons, the largest of its kind.
That study also estimated that for every $1 spent on prison education, $4 to $5 in incarceration costs are saved.
“Prison isn’t just about serving time for one’s crimes,” said Cuomo. “It’s an opportunity to help those who have made mistakes rehabilitate and rebuild their lives … This program not only strengthens the futures of incarcerated individuals and their communities alike, but it will save taxpayer dollars in the long run.”
What people think about the initiative
Prison-reform advocates support the idea — but some criticize its exclusion of prisoners with more than five years left on their sentence.
“This works against the ‘lock em up and throw away the key’ mentality that has dominated criminal justice policy of the last generation,” said Alex S. Vitale, professor of sociology and coordinator of the Policing & Social Justice Project at Brooklyn College.
“But the decision to exclude some long-term prisoners is a needless extension of pointless punitiveness,” he added.
Others are critical of the program altogether.
— Kyle Diehl (@kyle_diehl34) August 7, 2017
From the tweets, however, it seems like many aren’t aware of the program’s funding source, or that all New York residents can already receive a free college education.
Working toward a free college education — without prison time
Even if you live far from New York (and hopefully never go to prison), there are still ways to reduce the cost of college.
Although we might be a long way from a universal free college education system, that doesn’t mean you have to burden yourself with student loans. Work hard and get creative, and you could graduate college debt free.
Need a student loan?Here are our top student loan lenders of 2019!
|1 Important Disclosures for Ascent.
Before taking out private student loans, you should explore and compare all financial aid alternatives, including grants, scholarships, and federal student loans and consider your future monthly payments and income. Applying with a cosigner may improve your chance of getting approved and could help you qualify for a lower interest rate. Ascent Student Loans may be funded by Richland State Bank (RSB). Ascent Student Loan products are subject to credit qualification, completion of a loan application, verification of application information and certification of loan amount by a participating school. Loan products may not be available in certain jurisdictions, and certain restrictions, limitations; and terms and conditions may apply. Ascent is a federally registered trademark of Turnstile Capital Management (TCM) and may be used by RSB under limited license. Richland State Bank is a federally registered service mark of Richland State Bank.
* Application times vary depending on the applicants ability to supply the necessary information for submission.
2 Important Disclosures for College Ave.
College Ave Student Loans products are made available through either Firstrust Bank, member FDIC or M.Y. Safra Bank, FSB, member FDIC. All loans are subject to individual approval and adherence to underwriting guidelines. Program restrictions, other terms, and conditions apply.
Information advertised valid as of 4/1/2019. Variable interest rates may increase after consummation.
3 Important Disclosures for Discover.
* The Sallie Mae partner referenced is not the creditor for these loans and is compensated by Sallie Mae for the referral of Smart Option Student Loan customers.
4 = Sallie Mae Disclaimer: Click here for important information. Terms, conditions and limitations apply.
5 Important Disclosures for SunTrust.
Before applying for a private student loan, SunTrust recommends comparing all financial aid alternatives including grants, scholarships, and both federal and private student loans. To view and compare the available features of SunTrust private student loans, visit https://www.suntrust.com/loans/student-loans/private.
Certain restrictions and limitations may apply. SunTrust Bank reserves the right to change or discontinue this loan program without notice. Availability of all loan programs is subject to approval under the SunTrust credit policy and other criteria and may not be available in certain jurisdictions.
SunTrust Bank, Member FDIC. ©2019 SunTrust Banks, Inc. SUNTRUST, the SunTrust logo and Custom Choice Loan are trademarks of SunTrust Banks, Inc. All rights reserved.
6 Important Disclosures for LendKey.
Additional terms and conditions apply. For more details see LendKey
7 Important Disclosures for CommonBond.
A government loan is made according to rules set by the U.S. Department of Education. Government loans have fixed interest rates, meaning that the interest rate on a government loan will never go up or down.
Government loans also permit borrowers in financial trouble to use certain options, such as income-based repayment, which may help some borrowers. Depending on the type of loan that you have, the government may discharge your loan if you die or become permanently disabled.
Depending on what type of government loan that you have, you may be eligible for loan forgiveness in exchange for performing certain types of public service. If you are an active-duty service member and you obtained your government loan before you were called to active duty, you are entitled to interest rate and repayment benefits for your loan.
A private student loan is not a government loan and is not regulated by the Department of Education. A private student loan is instead regulated like other consumer loans under both state and federal law and by the terms of the promissory note with your lender.
If your private student loan has a fixed interest rate, then that rate will never go up or down. If your private student loan has a variable interest rate, then that rate will vary depending on an index rate disclosed in your application. If the interest rate on the new private student loan is less than the interest rate on your government loans, your payments will be less if you refinance.
If you don’t pay a private student loan as agreed, the lender can refer your loan to a collection agency or sue you for the unpaid amount.
Remember also that like government loans, most private loans cannot be discharged if you file bankruptcy unless you can demonstrate that repayment of the loan would cause you an undue hardship. In most bankruptcy courts, proving undue hardship is very difficult for most borrowers.
8 Important Disclosures for Citizens Bank.
Citizens Bank Disclosures
|4.24% – 13.24%1||Undergraduate and Graduate|
|4.07% – 11.32%2||Undergraduate, Graduate, and Parents|
|4.84% – 13.49%3||Undergraduate and Graduate|
|4.50% – 11.35%*,4||Undergraduate and Graduate|
|4.25% – 13.25%5||Undergraduate and Graduate|
|6.08% – 7.22%6||Undergraduate and Graduate|
|3.95% – 9.81%7||Undergraduate, Graduate, and Parents|
|4.45% – 12.42%8||Undergraduate, Graduate, and Parents|