Members of New York Congressional Delegation Back Including Tuition Assistance for Incarcerated New Yorkers in Gov. Hochul’s State Budget

Mar 07, 2022
Education
Press

For Immediate Release: Monday, March 7, 2022

Contact: Raymond Rodriguez, raymond.rodriguez@mail.house.gov

“Restoring TAP for incarcerated individuals will give New York a chance to demonstrate its commitment to social justice, equity, and fairness.” 

WASHINGTON D.C. – Today, the push to restore the Tuition Assistance Program (TAP) received yet another big boost with the backing of 8 members of New York’s Congressional delegation, led my Rep. Ritchie Torres (NY-15). In addition to Rep. Torres, Members who signed on include: Reps. Greg Meeks, Nydia Velazquez, Carolyn Maloney, Jamaal Bowman, Grace Meng, Hakeem Jeffries and Mondaire Jones. The Members of Congress join a long list of backers including the Citizens Crime Commission, League of Women Voters, Jamie Dimon, Chairman and CEO of JPMorgan Chase, Darren Walker, President of the Ford Foundation and Partnership for New York City President and CEO Kathy Wylde. 

Rep. Ritchie Torres said: “Lifting the ban on TAP assistance for incarcerated New Yorkers will help them gain a second chance at remaking their lives and achieve higher education degrees that will open doors to good jobs. This will reduce recidivism, promote equity, and affirm our state’s commitment to racial justice.”

The letter said: “We write as Members of the New York State Congressional delegation to express our support for lifting the ban on Tuition Assistance Program (TAP) awards for incarcerated individuals. Since its inception in 1974, TAP has been a lifeline for generations of New Yorkers of low- to middle-income backgrounds that pursue higher education degrees in our state.”

Turn on the Tap NY is a statewide campaign comprised of community groups, directly impacted advocates, alumni of college in prison programs, and college-in-prison providers working together to repeal the ban on TAP grants for incarcerated students. Additional information can be found at turnonthetapyny.org

The Full Text of the Letter is Below and Here.

“Dear Governor Hochul, Senate Majority Leader Stewart-Cousins, and Speaker Heastie:

We write as Members of the New York State Congressional delegation to express our support for lifting the ban on Tuition Assistance Program (TAP) awards for incarcerated individuals. Since its inception in 1974, TAP has been a lifeline for generations of New Yorkers of low- to middle-income backgrounds that pursue higher education degrees in our state.

In 2020, Congress voted to restore Pell Grant eligibility for incarcerated students following a 25-year ban. This bipartisan federal reform is a bold step towards college affordability and accessibility for all students. With the restoration of Pell eligibility, we believe it is critical that the State seize this momentum and restore TAP eligibility for incarcerated students. Allowing incarcerated students to benefit from TAP is a long overdue and straightforward action that builds opportunity, promotes equity, strengthens democracy, and affirms our commitment to racial justice in New York State.

We applaud Governor Hochul’s decision to lift the ban on TAP for incarcerated students in the State’s annual budget. We also support legislative efforts in the State Assembly (A2322) and State Senate (S4464) to codify TAP for incarcerated individuals into law. Currently, an estimated 1,578 New Yorkers in prison are eligible for TAP grants to support their education. Restoring TAP for incarcerated individuals would account for less than 1% of the overall $1.1B TAP budget and will deliver an estimated four to five dollar return on investment for every dollar spent per individual. Restoring TAP for incarcerated students will also fill equity gaps for incarcerated New Yorkers and those who await reentry into society, including:

  • Reducing recidivism and increasing public safety: People who participate in college-in-prison programs are 43 percent less likely to recidivate than individuals who do not participate in such programs.3 Over the past 20 years, 90 percent of alumni from one program in New York, the Bard Prison Initiative (BPI), have never returned to prison – an overwhelming improvement from the state’s average recidivism rate of 40 percent in three years. The recidivism rate for BPI students who earned an associate’s degree is 8.7 percent, and for those who earned a bachelor’s degree, the rate falls to 3.1 percent.
  • Providing economic opportunities: Employment rates are higher among formerly incarcerated workers who have participated in an educational program while in prison compared to those who had not participated in one. In New York, 85 percent of BPI students are employed within 60 days of their release from prison.
  • Narrowing gaps in educational quality and outcomes: Higher education remains the best means for economic security and upward mobility. 69 percent of incarcerated adults express interest in obtaining a college degree, yet less than five percent have the ability to obtain one. These benefits have been shown to pass on to children of incarcerated college students, who are more likely to pursue a degree themselves.
  • Strengthening democracy by encouraging civic engagement: Empirical research demonstrates a strong correlation between higher education and overall civic engagement.7 With access to higher education, justice-impacted individuals can create meaningful solutions for themselves, their children, and their peers.
  • Affirming New York’s commitment to racial justice: Black and Brown communities are disproportionately represented in the prison system. Providing higher education in prison helps reverse negative outcomes linked to the overcriminalization of marginalized people.

Restoring TAP for incarcerated individuals will give New York a chance to demonstrate its commitment to social justice, equity, and fairness. We strongly support its inclusion in the State budget this year and appreciate your consideration of this request.

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