The Southern Higher Education in Prison Collective blog will feature regular posts highlighting key terms in HEP work, writing by guest bloggers, and stories about member organizations within the collective and their work. This post looks specifically at the member organization, THEI. 

The Southern Collective is composed of thirteen states with several partners in each state. One of those states, Tennessee, has three collective member organizations: Lipscomb Life Program, Rhodes College, and Tennessee Higher Education Initiative (THEI). A primary goal of this blog is to highlight specific programs and amplify the work each does. This post takes us to Nashville, Tennessee, home to THEI. 

Founded in 2011, THEI has a mission to disrupt systems of harm, and create opportunities for autonomy and success through education, support and advocacy with and for justice impacted individuals.THEI realizes its mission through three portfolios:  Academic Programs, Student Success and Re-Entry Services, and Policy and Practice.

Academic Programs

THEI partners with three prisons across the state, and five degree-granting colleges. 

LocationFacility Institute of Higher EducationDegree Program 
East TennesseeMorgan County Correctional ComplexRoane StateTransfer Program (A.S.), General Humanities
Middle TennesseeTurney Center Industrial Complex (TCIX) Nashville State Community College (NCSS)

Belmont University
A.S., Business Administration OR Political Science

B.B.A., Business Administration
West TennesseeNorthwest Correctional Complex (NWCX)Dyersburg State

Lane College
A.S., Business Administration

B.A., General Business

Student Success & Re-Entry Services (SSRS)

The SSRS portfolio provides opportunities for students to receive support and engage in education beyond academics. SSRS seeks to provide incarcerated students and free world alumni with opportunities for self discovery, skill-building, access to information, and civic engagement through workshops like financial literacy, entrepreneurship, digital literacy, and through community groups like our Student Leadership Council and our Alumni Network.

Additionally, the re-entry team supports students prior to and post-release, including re-entry planning, parole preparation, service provider referrals, advocacy, student loan rehabilitation, and providing tangible resources post-release like laptop computers and gift cards. Communication with students starts a year prior to release to plan and prepare for the transition from incarceration, and continues post-release through follow up case management and the THEI alumni Network.

Policy & Practice

The Policy & Practice Portfolio advances THEI’s mission by engaging in systems change aimed at impacting policy & practice in the state of Tennessee and the southern region. We do this by centering the expertise of currently and formerly impacted students & HEP program providers in our analysis of state, regional, and federal policy efforts. In 2019, THEI launched the Tennessee Prison College Coalition (TPCC) with support from ECMC Foundation & the Laughing Gull Foundation to build infrastructure with a statewide collective of agencies and organizations representing higher education, workforce development, and corrections committed to widening the path to postsecondary access for all incarcerated Tennesseans.TPCC is currently working to create a program quality indicator tool for HEP programming, develop a plan to aggregate and disseminate data relative to HEP program effectiveness, and create a HEP-focused professional learning community. The goal of TPCC is to build infrastructure with a statewide collective of agencies and organizations representing higher education, workforce development, and corrections committed to widening the path to postsecondary access for all incarcerated Tennesseans.

It should be noted this post is not an exhaustive list of the work THEI does. It is meant to give a snapshot of the organization. If you are interested in learning more about THEI, you can access their website here

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