Bard College Launches Nation’s First Tuition-Free College for Justice Advocacy

Bard College, a private liberal arts college, announced the launch of the third Bard Prison Initiative. Opening at the Countee Cullen Campus in Harlem this fall, the free program will open enrollment for those who have been impacted by the prison system, were formerly incarcerated inmates themselves, or are inspired to pursue careers in advocacy, community building, or social justice.

“JustLeadershipUSA is proud to partner with the Bard Prison Initiative and College & Community Fellowship to launch this new micro college,” DeAnna Hoskins, president and CEO of JustLeadership, said. “We know that to truly invest in, elevate, educate and empower directly impacted voices, we must create leadership development and educational programs that fully unleash the potential of marginalized people so that they can drive and create the bold, substantive changes necessary to end systemic oppression and build healthy communities.”

This crucial opportunity comes as other public universities introduce degree programs across the country. In Maryland, Georgetown University has the Prison Scholar Program. At Bunker Hill College/Tisch College, the TUPIT program (Tufts University Prison Initiative at Tisch College) allows incarcerated and formerly incarcerated persons to earn an associate degree in liberal arts by taking Tufts courses. Stanley Andrisse, an endocrinologist scientist and assistant professor of physiology at Howard University, is also a part of a growing number of academics and activists who are behind the From Prison Cells to PhD program, meant to implement a “prison-to-STEM pipeline”.

“College & Community Fellowship is delighted to collaborate on this life-changing resource that will be offered to residents of Harlem who have been locked out of opportunities for equity and justice,” said Vivian Nixon, Executive Director of College & Community Fellowship via press release. “It’s been twenty years since I was released from prison. Obtaining a college degree has been the most transformative undertaking on my journey toward a life of self-determination and dedication to social justice. System involved women who are enrolled in the new microcollege will have access to CCF’s  range of support programs to build social capital, ensure educational success, and foster civic engagement.”

In 2016, BPI launched the pilot microcollege in Holyoke, Massachusetts with The Care Center. Graduates have enrolled in bachelor’s degree programs at Mt. Holyoke, Trinity, Elms, Hampshire, and Smith Colleges, as well as on the main campus of Bard College. Bard at Brooklyn Public Library opened in 2018 and is the first college degree program offered within and in collaboration with a public library. 

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With criminal justice reform under the spotlight already, this opportunity for formerly incarcerated individuals to enroll in this micro college gives them a chance to grow directly with leaders and decision-makers on the ground, while learning to become advocates of change for the future.

This is a partnership in full between JustLeadershipUSA, College & Community Fellowship, and BPI, the latter which has provided variations of this program for years. The coursework and curriculum will be tied to critical race theory, history of social movements, theories of social change, and direct advocacy training.

Enrollment is open now!

Learn more about Bard Microcolleges and how to apply here: