Bard Prison Initiative Accepts Transfer Students and Expands as Two Colleges CloseANNANDALE-ON-HUSON, NY — This summer and fall, in response to two coinciding college-in-prison program closures, the Bard Prison Initiative (BPI) at Bard College has undertaken an unprecedented transfer and enrollment project to ensure no incarcerated college student is left without the ability to complete a degree.
Following financial struggles, two New York private universities, Medaille University and Alliance University have announced closing this year. Both Medaille and Alliance had long standing college-in-prison operations, enrolling incarcerated students in degree programs at Albion Correctional Facility for women and at Fishkill Correctional Facility for men, respectively.
BPI, which enrolls incarcerated students in Bard College associate and bachelor’s degrees across seven NYS correctional facilities, had been operating degree programs alongside these universities at Albion Fishkill for several years. In addition to running its general admissions process this summer, BPI offered Medaille and Alliance students immediate enrollment in Bard College as transfer students. BPI’s leadership team met with prospective transfer students both as a group and in one-on-one advising meetings to make sure students could make informed decisions about transferring into BPI.
In total, 80 former Medaille and Alliance students enrolled with BPI, alongside 122 students through standard admissions, marking the largest single expansion of BPI to date.
The Medaille college-in-prison program closed in May, and former Medaille transfer students were enrolled in BPI for the summer semester. The Alliance college-in-prison program continued courses through the summer semester and those students who opted to transfer into BPI enrolled with Bard at the end of August. At Fishkill, BPI worked closely with Alliance University administrators to ensure a smooth transition for students, and collaborated on a Teach Out Agreement. Medaille University’s former students at Albion were granted the same terms included in the formal Teach Out Agreement.
The enrollment of Medaille and Alliance students will double the size of BPI’s student body at Albion and Fishkill Correctional Facilities. As a result, BPI has hired more faculty, added courses, provided the requisite course materials, and dedicated additional staff time to both sites. At Fishkill, the new students will necessitate an upgrade and expansion of the BPI computer lab. As transfer students leave prison, they will be eligible for all BPI reentry and alumni/ae support services, so BPI is adding capacity on that front as well.
The Bard Prison Initiative was founded by undergraduates at Bard College In 1999, in response to the decimation of college-in-prison nationally. After gaining access to the New York State prison system and securing limited funding, Bard College launched BPI as a pilot program with 16 students in 2001. Since then, the program has grown annually and dramatically. Its first associate degrees were issued in 2005 and the first bachelor’s degrees in 2008. Today, BPI operates in seven interconnected prisons in New York State. It enrolls over 400 students and organizes a host of extracurricular activities to replicate the breadth of college life and inquiry.
Over its nearly 25 years, BPI has expanded in multiple directions. BPI’s Reentry & Alumni Affairs teams work with formerly incarcerated Bard students as they pursue robust civic and professional lives after release. This includes opening a NYC office and launching an upstate initiative based in Albany, NY to support alumni/ae across the state. BPI is also the home of a national Consortium for the Liberal Arts in Prison, dedicated to fostering a robust and sustainable national community of college-in-prison initiatives across diverse institutions of higher education along with the BPI Summer Residency for emerging practitioners. Most recently, BPI established the Bard Microcollege to bring full-scholarship, academically rigorous liberal arts college to isolated communities outside of prison. In all its work, BPI builds alliances to rethink access, reduce costs, and redress inequities in higher education.
#About Bard College
Founded in 1860, Bard College is a four-year, residential college of the liberal arts and sciences located 90 miles north of New York City. With the addition of the Montgomery Place estate, Bard’s campus consists of nearly 1,000 parklike acres in the Hudson River Valley. It offers bachelor of arts, bachelor of science, and bachelor of music degrees, with majors in more than 40 academic programs; graduate degrees in 13 programs; eight early colleges; and numerous dual-degree programs nationally and internationally. Building on its 163-year history as a competitive and innovative undergraduate institution, Bard College has expanded its mission as a private institution acting in the public interest across the country and around the world to meet broader student needs and increase access to liberal arts education. The undergraduate program at our main campus in upstate New York has a reputation for scholarly excellence, a focus on the arts, and civic engagement. Bard is committed to enriching culture, public life, and democratic discourse by training tomorrow’s thought leaders. For more information about Bard College, visit bard.edu.
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