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### Graduate Education Program at CSUDH Empowers Incarcerated Individuals

In California prisons, incarcerated individuals now have the opportunity to pursue a master’s degree through California State University, Dominguez Hills (CSUDH), an ACE member.

In collaboration with the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, the university has introduced the state’s inaugural graduate degree tailored for incarcerated individuals.

CSUDH President Thomas A. Parham emphasized the significance of this initiative, highlighting the importance of investing in education and rehabilitation for incarcerated students, rather than solely focusing on punitive measures.

Historically, prison education programs experienced a decline following the enactment of the federal Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act in 1994. However, there has been a resurgence in such programs over the past decade. Recent legislative changes have facilitated greater access to affordable higher education for thousands of incarcerated individuals starting from July 2023. Studies have shown that postsecondary education in prison contributes significantly to reducing recidivism rates by over 27% and enhancing employment prospects by 10%.

Previously, inmates had access to the original HUX program, a correspondence-based degree program established in 1974. Despite its discontinuation in 2016 due to dwindling enrollment, the demand for prison education has grown, with more inmates earning bachelor’s degrees. In response to advocacy efforts by incarcerated students, CSUDH’s College of Arts and Humanities collaborated with the College of Continuing and Professional Education to revamp and relaunch the distance master’s program exclusively for incarcerated individuals.

The HUX program commenced in September 2023 with an inaugural cohort of 33 students spread across 11 prisons. Eligible students must hold a bachelor’s degree with a minimum GPA of 2.5, regardless of whether it was obtained during incarceration or prior. The program spans two years and offers concentrations in various subjects such as perspectives on punishment, religion, morality, spirituality, expanding horizons, and urban development.

Participants in the program attest to the profound impact of the education they are receiving, citing transformative personal growth.

Due to restrictions on video calls and synchronous tools in prison settings, HUX students engage in more independent learning compared to traditional online courses. The curriculum involves asynchronous video lessons, discussion boards, written assignments, and regular one-on-one sessions with professors. Plans are underway to enhance student interaction and incorporate in-person lessons in the near future.

The program tuition amounts to approximately $10,500, with financial aid available through the California Department of Rehabilitation. Nearly all students in the current cohort have received adequate aid to cover their tuition and book expenses.

The architects of the program aim to equip graduates with effective communication and advocacy skills, whether within the prison system, for individuals serving life sentences, or upon reentry into society. They envision HUX as a model inspiring similar initiatives nationwide, recognizing the substantial positive impact of prison education programs on individuals and communities.