WICHITA, Kan. (KSNW) — Hundreds of Kansas prisoners have signed up for college classes for the fall semester. The classes are held at the eight Kansas Department of Corrections (KDOC) adult facilities.
KDOC says the 325 incarcerated students are taking college and career classes, including Career Technical Education programs (CTE) and associate and four-year degrees. That number is 129 more than last year.
The increase is due in part to Second Chance Pell grants. The U.S. Department of Education awarded $2,229,125 million in Pell funding to seven Kansas colleges. Another four Kansas schools are expected to apply in early 2022 for Second Chance Pell status.
“Of the 325 residents in KDOC classrooms this fall, 240 are funded through Pell,” said Dr. Cris Fanning, KDOC education director.
College professors teach the classes. In addition, the Kansas Consortium for Correctional Higher Education, a partnership between KDOC, the Kansas Board of Regents and 11 Kansas higher education institutions, ensures the prison programs are of the same quality as those on campus and that certifications and degrees are geared to high-demand occupations.
CTE programs include welding, sustainable/renewable energy, carpentry and electrical skills. Degree programs include associate of applied science, associate of arts in liberal studies and Bachelor of Science in computer information systems. As funding and space within the facilities allow, more programs and degrees will be added.
KDOC says another 134 residents are enrolled in GED programs.
A recent Rand study found that for every $1 spent on educating an incarcerated individual, taxpayers save between $4 and $5 in three-year incarceration costs. KDOC research indicates 75% of those entering prison have weak employment and education histories, and 50% of the reincarcerated were unemployed at the time of re-entry.
KDOC releases approximately 6,000 individuals each year who return to their home communities. It says that if those people are trained and educated, it increases the labor pool for employers and benefits the economy.