The Cornell Prison Education Program Holds Its First Graduation Ceremony

Recently, the Cornell Prison Education Program held graduation ceremonies for 15 students who earned associate’s degrees at the Auburn Correctional Facility. Many of the graduates were African Americans.

The Cornell Prison Education Program began in 2008. About 100 inmates are enrolled at the Auburn facility or the Cayuga Correctional Facility. Some 17 different classes are offered to the inmates in the program. Cornell faculty and graduate students teach the courses and they are aided by more than 40 undergraduate tutors and teaching assistants. The students earn Cornell credits which are transferred to Cuyuga Community College, from which the graduates receive their associate’s degrees.

Prisoners must pass an entrance examination to be admitted to the program. All fees, including books and supplies, are paid for by the program.

It was the first graduation ceremony for the Cornell Prison Education Program. The graduates were the first in New York State prisons to earn State University of New York degrees since the enactment of the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act in 1995. That legislation made prison inmates ineligible for federal Pell Grants.

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  1. Excellent program and opportunity for inmates to spend their time productively doing homework, reading and imagining a better and different world for themselves once they graduate and leave the prison system. The program provides possibly an opportunity the inmate had never considered possible. The graduation ceremony is definitely an important part also because many of these individuals may have never been seen completing a positive endeavor by their family. This alone changes the whole dynamics for that inmate and the family. It adds a new benchmark for others in his family to accomplish. And it definitely changed that inmates perspective of his/herself forever. I am exstatic about the programs possibilities and that of its participants…well done!!!

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