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MCAN joins partnership to improve postsecondary education access for incarcerated adults

Photo of a prison

LANSING, Mich. — Michigan College Access Network (MCAN) recently announced a partnership with the Michigan Consortium for Higher Education in Prison (MiCHEP) to increase postsecondary education accessibility for incarcerated adults in Michigan. This joint effort is in alignment with the state’s goal of Sixty by 30 — 60% of Michigan adults earning a postsecondary degree or certificate by 2030. 

Through the Ascendium Fellowship Program presented by the National College Attainment Network (NCAN), MCAN and MiCHEP, along with seven other organizations across the nation, will participate in a project aimed at supporting students who are incarcerated or formerly incarcerated in pursuing postsecondary education. Fellows will meet monthly to learn from one another and to hone and strengthen their strategies for supporting the students who are or were incarcerated on their journey to attain a postsecondary education. Fellows will also contribute to a comprehensive college access and success guidebook and other valuable resources aimed at helping programs that support this population of learners. This is a pivotal moment for Michigan’s educational system, aiming to establish sustainable, long-term pathways for success for one of the most marginalized populations in the state. 

“The new Pell Grant for Prison Education Programs launched on July 1 by the U.S. Department of Education offers a powerful opportunity to advance racial and economic justice,” said NCAN in a statement announcing the fellowship. “For the first time since the 1990s, people who are incarcerated will be able to access Pell Grants to pay for postsecondary education.”

The following institutions have seats on the MiCHEP Steering Committee or will be joining within the next nine months:

  • Calvin University and Calvin Theological Seminary (Calvin Prison Initiative)
  • Delta Community College
  • Eastern Michigan University
  • Ferris State University
  • Grand Valley State University
  • Hope College and Western Theological Seminary (Hope-Western Prison Education Program)
  • Jackson College
  • Kellogg Community College
  • Lake Superior State University
  • Mott Community College
  • Siena Heights University
  • Western Michigan University

“The Michigan Consortium for Higher Education in Prison is very pleased to partner with MCAN on our shared goal of increasing college attainment,” said Richard Ray, co-director of the Hope-Western Prison Education Program and MiCHEP steering committee chairperson. “As a collective of colleges and universities committed to the very highest standards in higher education for incarcerated students, we couldn’t be happier to draw upon MCAN’s relationships and networks to push the college-in-prison movement forward for the benefit of incarcerated students, their non-enrolled peers in Michigan prisons, corrections staff, and citizen-taxpayers. Each of these groups wins when incarcerated people earn college degrees.”

“We know that postsecondary education is a transformational opportunity for people who are incarcerated. Offering the chance to earn a college degree or certificate in prison helps reduce recidivism and creates economic opportunities for returning citizens,” said Ryan Fewins-Bliss, MCAN executive director. “We are excited to formalize a partnership with MiCHEP and help build an effective strategy to reshape Michigan’s prison education system for years to come.”

MCAN and MiCHEP will work in tandem to accelerate efforts to become a trusted source of information and best practices to support incarcerated students in finding resources for postsecondary education. With over 3,000 incarcerated people currently awaiting college enrollment, MCAN and MiCHEP will work alongside the Michigan Department of Corrections to make opportunities available to eligible individuals. 

For more information about MCAN’s MiCHEP partnership or other adult education initiatives, please contact Patrick Brown, MCAN director of adult student attainment strategy.


The Michigan Consortium for Higher Education in Prison is a membership organization of colleges and universities that offer college degrees in Michigan prisons. MiCHEP recognizes, supports, and advocates for the power of higher education to improve the lives of incarcerated students and their communities, the lives of correctional officers and staff, and the residents of Michigan. As such, the Consortium and its respective members strive to provide high quality programs and services to this student population. The Consortium partners with and serves as a policy advisor for the Michigan Department of Corrections (MDOC). The Consortium is dedicated to the restoration of personal agency, dignity, and economic opportunity for students, and, where appropriate, to their successful reentry into society as informed and capable citizens committed to the common good.

Initiative will provide resources for higher education institutions to effectively support marginalized populations