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Local Colleges Receive Thousands to Expand College Access for Formerly Incarcerated

By Joe Gutierrez
Community Writer
07/06/2016 at 02:16 PM

SAN BERNARDINO >> Cal Poly Pomona and Cal State San Bernardino are part of a statewide effort to expand college access to formerly incarcerated individuals and help reduce the rate of recidivism. The universities have received $142,000 as part of a California State University pilot program modeled after San Francisco State’s Project Rebound, which helps those who have spent time in prison to earn college degrees, drastically reducing the likelihood they will return to incarceration. California has historically suffered from one of the highest recidivism rates in the nation, with two-thirds of those released from prison returning within a few years. For those participating in college programs, the odds of returning to prison are reduced by 51 percent. In 2010, the most recent year for which data is available, the percentage of Project Rebound students who returned to prison was just 3 percent. This CSU effort involves the CSU campuses in Pomona, San Bernardino, Bakersfield, Fresno, Fullerton, Sacramento, San Diego and San Francisco. It is funded through a $500,000 "Renewing Communities" grant from The Opportunity Institute. The expansion of Project Rebound to seven additional campuses will make it accessible to 70 percent of individuals monitored by the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation. “Project Rebound offers a great opportunity to help individuals who want to transform their lives but may not normally have the opportunity to attend a college or university and earn their degrees,” said CSUSB President Tomás D. Morales. “Education will play a vital role in helping them to better themselves and CSUSB is dedicating its efforts to making it happen.” “Pursuing a postsecondary education is one of the best approaches for the formerly incarcerated to change their lives, providing possibilities that lead to success in the community. It can lead to developing a career instead of simply providing a job,” said Annika Anderson, a CSUSB assistant professor of sociology and principal investigator of the CSUSB grant. Both Cal Poly Pomona and Cal State San Bernardino plan to enroll their first group of Project Rebound students in the fall 2016 term. The initial phase will include hiring staff and orientation for new students. Significant collaboration with local community colleges is planned. “We expect to have at least 10 individuals that were formerly incarcerated in our first cohort,” said political science Professor Renford Reese, who is the director of Project Rebound at Cal Poly Pomona. “These would include students who are already enrolled at Cal Poly Pomona and then any incoming students we identify. We have tremendous resources on campus, and we will be able to connect our Project Rebound students with those resources while providing mentors and support.” Reese has more than a decade of experience researching and creating academic programs for people in prison and the formerly incarcerated. He is the founder of the Prison Education Project and the Reintegration Academy for parolees. During the three-year grant, Cal Poly Pomona and Cal State San Bernardino expect to partner with the California Institute for Men in Chino, the California Rehabilitation Center in Norco, the Calif Institute for Women in Corona, and the new Santa Fe Springs Custody to Community Women’s Transition Facility. In addition, CSUSB will use the grant as an ongoing partner of a 30-agency re-entry collaborative in San Bernardino County. “No one wants to be judged by the worst mistakes they made in their life,” Reese said. “Project Rebound will support our students in fulfilling their dreams and reaching their potential.” At SF State, which is lead campus in the grant, the program supports prospective students through the entire process of attending college, including providing assistance and referrals. Once a student is on campus, Project Rebound provides food vouchers, BART tickets and money for books. The program also connects participants to student interns who help them navigate college. The Renewing Communities initiative is also funding six other pilot programs. The initiative is supported by nine state and national foundations, including The California Endowment, The California Wellness Foundation, Roy & Patricia Disney Family Foundation, ECMC Foundation, the Ford Foundation, the Heising-Simons Foundation, The William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation and the Rosenberg Foundation.