Board of Trustees set to hold first meeting of 2023 - Approval for new Prison Education Program on agenda 

Evergreen staff
Jan 12, 2023

OLYMPIA – The Board of Trustees for The Evergreen State College is set to hold its first regular meeting for 2023 on Friday, January 13.   

The hybrid meeting will be from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. and agenda items include an update on the college’s strategic plan regarding student academic success and support, as well as continuing to strengthen the college’s financial position.   

There is also an action item for the Board to consider approval for the establishment of a new Prison Education Program.   

Evergreen has a long-standing history in expanding prison education in Washington state starting back in 1996 with the Gateways for Incarcerated Youth, which was founded by college alum and faculty emerita, Dr. Carol Minugh along with Green Hill School staff, and the Sustainability in Prisons Project, which was founded by former Evergreen faculty member Dr. Nalini Nadkarni and alum Dan Pacholke.  

Board approval would direct faculty and staff to develop a proposal according to the accreditation process  required for Pell-funded prison education programs. Beginning July 1, 2023, all incarcerated students who are enrolled in eligible programs will once again be able to apply for Pell grants, thus increasing access to a college education.   

“We are very excited for the Board’s consideration of this new program,” said Evergreen’s president Dr. John Carmichael. “The first line of the college’s social contract reads, ‘The Evergreen State College is an institution and a community that continues to organize itself so that it clears away obstacles to learning,’ and establishing this new program that would meet the requirements to allow for access to Pell grant funding, which clearly helps eliminate some of the barriers that exist for incarcerated students.”  

Expanding access to college credits in prison is a widely recognized equity strategy that can help individuals build strong foundations for themselves and the communities where they live both during and after incarceration. In a recent cost-benefit analysis, the Washington State Institute for Public Policy has determined that for every $1 invested in college behind bars, the public stands to accrue $19.74 in benefits. College education also helps reduce recidivism in formerly incarcerated individuals.   
“What we hope is that with the Board’s permission, we can build a new program that helps improve the future for students, their families, and the communities they live in,” explained Dr. Dexter Gordon, executive vice president for Evergreen. “Ninety-five percent of people incarcerated are released – a college education allows for them to be better positioned to secure employment, find stable housing, and provide for their families upon their release.”  

The new program must address the requirements for Pell grant eligibility which is established by the U.S. Department of Education, and the Northwest Commission of Colleges and Universities. Evergreen’s prison education program will be developed in coordination and collaboration with the Washington Department of Corrections, the State Board of Community and Technical Colleges, and as well as many other community partners. Another Board approval would be necessary once the final program proposal is developed in advance of it moving forward for submission to the Northwest Commission of Colleges and Universities and the U.S. Department of Education.   

More information about Evergreen’s Board of Trustees meeting can be found on the college’s website.