Mississippi Valley State University, an HBCU located in Leflore County in the Mississippi Delta, recently unveiled its HEP program, the Prison Education Partnership Program (PEPP), in which classes are anticipated to start in the Fall 2022 semester at two men’s carceral facilities. A team of two administrators and three faculty members (two in criminal justice and one in history degree programs) worked for some time to identify area prisons that would be most receptive to starting a program and to ascertain the interest of MVSU faculty in participating as program instructors. We enjoy tremendous support from our partnering institutions: in one, the warden is a criminal justice alumna who is extremely supportive of the effort. In the other, the warden and other staff members are also MVSU alumni who are anxious for us to start.  

Furthermore, all of the faculty members and administrators who worked on this team have taught or volunteered in prison courses and/or been active in restorative justice and research in incarceration policies for years before this effort. Participation in the Southern Higher Education in Prison Collective and the Alliance for Higher Education in Prison Zoom meetings and conferences was extremely helpful in preparing staff to deliver the program, which is providing a path to bachelor’s degree success – at this time the only institution in the state offering this opportunity. Moreover, the articulation agreement between MVSU, a SACS accredited institution, and the other higher education institutions in the state will assure full transfer of any credits earned in our program to any other institution should a student elect to study at a different university in this state or beyond when he leaves. 

We are now in the process of determining which students are set to continue their education with us, collecting their transcripts and assisting them with their financial aid applications. This involves bringing in our University College, Financial Aid and Admissions Offices, who are all working over this summer to get us started. We are also preparing training sessions for our prospective faculty, who will be teaching face-to-face courses supported by other instructional methods (Zoom, pre-recorded lectures, etc.) that will work best for our students inside.

While working on our successful Second Chance Pell application over this past year, we met on several occasions in person with staff and prospective students at the two selected institutions. During these meetings, prospective students also filled out surveys regarding their educational backgrounds and ideas for program emphases, leading us to offer business administration, computer science, and engineering technology as our inaugural degree programs. (We will also offer general education courses toward any bachelor’s degree.) The students asked many questions during these meetings; they are excited to get started, as are we! As one prospective student shared, “we’ve been hoping and waiting for something like this!”

We look forward to sharing more about our program’s eventual successes!

This Program Highlight was written by Kathryn Green, a member of the Southern Collective and a Professor of History of Mississippi Valley State University.

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