Illinois had the first modern college-in-prison program in the United States. The number of programs in the state rose until the 1990s, when Congress disallowed the use of Pell funding for incarcerated students. As was the case across the country, Illinois programs quickly closed down.
There are currently 10 colleges and universities offering post-secondary education in Illinois state prisons:
- Benedictine University
- Danville Area Community College
- DePaul University
- Kaskaskia Community College
- Lake Land Community College
- Loyola University
- Northeastern University
- North Park University
- University of Illinois
There is considerable variety between the programs. For example, some operate at only one prison (e.g. Northwestern) while others serve students at multiple sites (e.g. Lake Land). Some offer degrees (e.g. Northeastern), some offer for-credit courses (e.g. DePaul), and others provide educational opportunities that don’t carry credit (e.g. Loyola). Some offer primarily vocational offerings with a splattering of academic courses (e.g. Kaskaskia) while others offer exclusively academic courses (e.g. U of I).
Illinois’ college-in-prison programs are represented by a statewide coalition, the Illinois Coalition for Higher Education in Prison. This statement is from its website:
“The Illinois Coalition for Higher Education in Prison (IL-CHEP) is a coalition of educators, students, activists, universities, and others committed to bringing quality higher education to Illinois prisons and jails and working toward a safer, more just society. Founded in 2016, we operate with the knowledge that higher education programs are among the best ways to offer opportunities and hope to individuals who are incarcerated. Such programs also help all of us imagine alternatives to our current system of mass incarceration.”
This one-pager provides information about IL-CHEP’s priorities and research.