Mississippi Valley State University Becomes First HBCU to Offer Correctional College Courses in Mississippi

HBCU, Mississippi Valley State University (MVSU) is offering those incarcerated at two delta prisons the opportunity to earn four-year degrees this fall for the first time in more than two decades, according to a university press release.

The university, adjacent to Itta Bena, Mississippi, implements Valley State’s Prison Educational Partnership Program (PEPP) as part of a growing initiative supported by the Second Chance Pell experience.

The Second Chance Pell Experience was created in 2015 by the obamaBiden the administration to provide Pell Grants to incarcerated individuals to restore access to post-secondary education programs.

“Access to high-quality post-secondary education is essential for people incarcerated, but for too long people incarcerated have been left behind,” said the US Secretary of Education. Miguel Cardonaaccording to the US Department of Education.

“The expansion of Second Chance Pell and these new default pathways are essential steps for those incarcerated to access educational opportunities that will give them a second chance to build a future for themselves.”

While other colleges have participated in the federal program, PEPP will be the first program run by a historically black college in Mississippi. In this case, the Second Chance Pell program is limited to incarcerated students with a high school diploma or GED degree who expect to be released.

The university accepted about 50 incarcerated students for the first semester of classes at Bolivar County Correctional Facility and Delta Correctional Facility, a Greenwood jail for people who violated parole.

According to the provost Kathie Stromele Goldthe program targets the disproportionate number of black incarcerated people to come into contact with a black community institution.

“Many of those incarcerated are parents and relatives of our students,” Stromile Golden said in a press release.

“It’s in our interest to do something like this because these are the same people who will come back to our community.”

Rochelle McGee-Cobbs, an associate professor of criminal justice, is leading the charge as director of PEPP. Last year, McGee-Cobbs partnered with faculty and administration to establish the prison education program. She even visited the prisons on several occasions to provide paper applications to potential students, since they did not have access to a computer.

“Here at Mississippi Valley State University, regardless of where a student is when they arrive, we try to make sure they’re fed,” McGee-Cobbs said.

“We try to make sure that we meet the needs of each student.”

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