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While this is great news, I challenge Columbia to do one better.

My own alma mater, Bard College, created a program called the Bard Prison Initiative. This program teaches college courses for college credit to incarcerated prisoners in the state of New York, ultimately awarding either Associates or Bachelors degrees from Bard College. Education for prisoners is important from both a moral and economic perspective, dramatically reducing recidivism as well as saving money (a $1 investment in prison education reduces incarceration costs by $3-$4 in the first three years of an inmate's release[1]).

This is a great first step but it is not enough to simply not support the prison industry. There are proven steps that can be taken here to reduce recidivism and help society. Despite this, the Bard Prison Initiative is chronically underfunded despite support by governor Cuomo due to politicians not wanting to appear soft on crime. Columbia is a much wealthier university than Bard College, so I challenge them to join Bard in their initiative.

[1] http://www.justice.gov/opa/pr/justice-and-education-departme...

they would also need to press local legislatures to remove many of the restrictions on felons as to what jobs they may hold let alone which certifications they may attain. many who return to the work force who were in white collar jobs can find their profession is blocked from them, even many blue collar workers will have lost their certifications and not be allowed back into their trades.

Unless they went to prison for something job related like fraud i don't see how this policy would help ex inmates.

You serve your time and you are released to find out that you will be punished the rest of your life by not having access to the profession you've been doing all your life.

And then everybody wonders why people like that fall back to a life of crime. The system is pushing them that way they actually have to fight it to get out.


look here for a nice slide show and even a much larger list of jobs felons are prevented from holding because of government intervention.

Barber, roofer, athletic trainer, tattoo artist, architect, and more. So really? The attached spreadsheet to the article is depressing and this is just Illinois

Barber and tattoo artist requires holding violent objects right up to a person. Athletic trainer often involves (hopefully) mildly enhancing medicine, and architect requires considerable thinking skill and trustworthiness. I see why they are banned, but at most it should be something like for parole. Roofing is often associated with fraud.

The US system seems much more concerned with finding people to punish than with helping people become honest and productive members of society. In fact, the system doesn't seem to care at all about a healthy society, just about punishment and revenge.

In a way, Columbia already does!

Columbia's School of General Studies is targeted at students without a high school diploma, students with "nontraditional" backgrounds, and students who have taken more than a year off after high school before going to school. I went to Columbia, and while I wasn't in GS, a lot of my friends were.

A large number of GS students are veterans[0]. Of the rest, a surprising number are people with, well, backgrounds that typically disqualify a person from an Ivy League education.

I can't share their stories because they're not mine to share, but I had classmates who were caught (and incarcerated for) drug trafficking and other serious-but-nonviolent crimes[1]. I know this because they told me, and they felt comfortable enough in their academic environment sharing this knowledge. To me, that really says something about not only the admissions process, but also the community and support that they receive as students.

As a non-GS student, I really appreciated this setup. My education would not have been the same had I not been sitting next to these students in our discussion sections for class, or serving on the boards of student organizations with them. And at the same time, they were able to benefit from the structure of a school that was explicitly tailored to students with nontraditional backgrounds.

Columbia could do a lot more to support GS students[3], as well as support incarcerated prisoners who are not students, but this is something they've been doing for decades without any fanfare at all.

Columbia also has a very long history of accepting veterans who were discharged for being gay, even long before Don't Ask, Don't Tell (Stephen Donaldson was a Columbia student before joining the military[4]). IIRC, many of these discharges would have been dishonorable discharges, which in some states carries the same status as being a convicted felon.

[0] Partly because Columbia GS is so proactive about recruiting on military bases, and partly because their yellow ribbon matching is so generous.

[1] I mention nonviolent crimes because that's what (some of) my GS friends shared with me. I don't know of any who were convicted of violent crimes, and I don't know if this is simply selection bias or if there really weren't any.

[3] If anyone reading this has $100MM to spare, the General Studies school could benefit greatly from its own endowment to increase access to financial aid!

[4] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stephen_Donaldson_%28activist%...

Full time tuition at Columbia runs around $52k/yr. Their Yellow Ribbon matching works out to about $8k/yr. So they're raking in a nearly guaranteed $44k/yr from the Federal government for every vet they enroll.

GS isn't some benevolent social program, they see the grant dollars and they take them. They've been experts at this for a long, long time.

The cynical part is that they use completely different diplomas, transcript codes and CEEB codes for the GS program. This is non-standard, where most other universities fully integrate their veteran and re-entry students across the board. (including financial aid)

> So they're raking in a nearly guaranteed $44k/yr from the Federal government for every vet they enroll.

Not exactly. The GI bill doesn't pay anywhere near $44k for New York State. The federal government is not picking up the tab.

I acknowledged the dearth of financial aid in my post, and that's something that they're desperately working on. GS is not as well endowed, which would be the solution to this. If you want to be cynical, fine, but the question of how much money GS has is different from how they're actually spending it.

This is the downside of being a separate school, yes, though with the aforementioned very notable exception of the endowment issue, GS students and faculty overwhelmingly favor this model.

In any case, the topic of this conversation was prisoners and convicts, not veterans. I merely mentioned them because they're a large part of GS and GS has a history of accepting disonorably discharged veterans, which is tantamount to convict status.

$20k GI bill + $8k yellow ribbon + $3k/mo living allowance ($24k for 8 months or $36k for 12 months).

So that's $52k/yr to $64k/yr before you start adding in stuff like Pell grants.

Do I support federal dollars funding college education for vets? Yes, absolutely. Do I think this is some great act of benevolence by Columbia? No. Is that view reinforced by the simple fact that they use different diplomas, transcripts and CEEB codes for veterans? Certainly. Do I buy that Columbia's screwy internal administrative structure is a valid reason for this? Definitely not.

If you're assuming they can't replace those GS students with other students who are capable of paying full price, you're wrong.

I attended a General Studies information session at Columbia. They sit you around a little table with 10 other people, tell you how great the program is and that it will cost $40k/year with little-to-no financial aid.

This is awesome news by itself. I hope all other US universities follow suit, if they are not doing this already. That will be several billion dollars divestment from bad actors; private prison corporations, in this case.

I think something like mooc's(or maybe something like platzi - with it's high[~70%] completion rates) would fit well for prisons ,especially that some states have started to let their prisoners use tablets[1].


It's not mentioned in the article but Columbia also has a very progressive hiring policy to help people get jobs after prison. For example, they hired convicted murderer and terrorist Cathy Boudin as an adjunct professor[0].

[0] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kathy_Boudin

I cannot tell from your comment if that was snarky or genuine because I know nothing about Ms. Boudin.

Wiki summary:

In 1981, Boudin and several former members of the Weather Underground and the Black Liberation Army robbed a Brink's armored car at the Nanuet Mall, in Nanuet, New York.

After Boudin dropped her infant son off at a babysitter's, she took the wheel of the getaway vehicle, a U-Haul truck.

She waited in a nearby parking lot as her heavily armed accomplices took another vehicle to a local mall where the Brink's truck was making a pick-up. They confronted the guards and gunfire immediately broke out, severely wounding guard Joe Trombino and killing his partner, Peter Paige. The four then took $1.6 million in cash and rejoined Boudin.

An alert college student called the police after spotting the gang abandoning their vehicle and entering the U-Haul. Two policeman spotted and pulled over the U-Haul, but they were expecting black males, and could only see Boudin - a white female - in the driver's seat. She got out of the cab, and raised her hands. Another police car with two officers quickly arrived on the scene.

The police officers who caught them testified that Boudin, feigning innocence, pleaded with them to put down their guns and got them to drop their guard; Boudin said she remained silent, that the officers relaxed spontaneously.

After the police lowered their guns, six men armed with automatic weapons emerged from the back of the truck, and began firing upon the four police officers, one of whom, Waverly Brown, was killed instantly. Officer Edward O'Grady lived long enough to empty his revolver, but as he reloaded, he was shot several times with an M16 rifle. Ninety minutes later, he died in the hospital.

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