College Access and Success for Incarcerated Students in California

February 18, 2021

Share this

Title: College Access and Success for Incarcerated Students in California

Date: February 2021

Source: The Campaign for College Opportunity


Author: Danny Murillo

A recent report from the Campaign for College Opportunity presents findings from their study on the current state of higher education for currently and formerly incarcerated students in California. In 2018, approximately a quarter million people were incarcerated in state and federal prisons, jails, detention centers, and youth facilities. Among them, half a million people were on parole and probation, with young Black and Latinx males being the majority. As of June 2020, only three percent of people (under 20,000) on parole and probation in California (650,000) accessed higher education. While people have the opportunity to attend postsecondary education, deep-rooted structural barriers and obstacles prohibit them from completing the degrees.

Through focus group interviews, the study revealed five main issues as below and conclude with policy recommendations.

  • California’s parole and probation programs do not prioritize higher education and often discourage formerly incarcerated people from accomplishing their educational goals.
  • The unsafe and unstable living conditions particularly make it difficult for incarcerated people to enter or remain in college.
  • Finding work with conviction history and balancing work while attending school were found to be the major challenges related to employment.
  • Support services are critical for this population of students to complete college. Services include: registering for classes, applying for financial aid, finding housing, going to mental health services, and legal supports.
  • Campus advisors must be trained to understand and know how to advise incarcerated students, especially with regards to criminal records and career opportunities.

To read the full report, please click here.

  —Haelim Chun

If you have any questions or comments about this blog post, please contact us.

Keep Reading

The Success of College Unbound

Four higher education leaders look at College Unbound’s learner-centered, student-driven approach to higher education and the institution’s 10-year journey through regional accreditation.

November 13, 2019

Discovering Hidden Barriers to Community College Enrollment and Success

When students apply to a community college, they expect enrollment to be a clear, orderly process. Unfortunately, for far too many students, it feels more like a maze, full of unknown steps, unfamiliar terminology and unexpected delays.
David Bevevino of the Education Advisory Board looks at how community college student onboarding is like a game of Chutes and Ladders—and what institutions can do to change it.

October 24, 2016

Helping College Students Make Informed Student Loan Decisions

Recent surveys demonstrate that many college students do not know whether they have borrowed or how much debt they have accrued during college. What can higher education institutions—and the federal government—do to help?

September 27, 2017