Virginia Department of Corrections College Credit Program Reaping Big Returns
March 28, 2017
RICHMOND — Since January 2014, Virginia Department of Corrections offenders have amassed more than 1,500 course completions in an award-winning college credit initiative.
Offenders in Virginia’s prisons have earned 8,983 college credits in little more than two years at a cost of just $3.69 per credit.
“One of the greatest predictors of reentry success is employment, and the key to employment is education,” said Director Harold Clarke. “Our emphasis on education has helped us attain the lowest recidivism rate in the nation. This initiative and others like it are fundamental to our success and fundamental to our mission of long-term public safety,” Director Clarke added.
Students have earned 1,523 completions in five Career and Technical Education (CTE) courses eligible for college credit: business software applications, computer-aided drafting, computer graphics and design, introduction to computers, and graphic communication and print production.
These courses are eligible for college credit because the Virginia Department of Corrections (VADOC) classes are accredited through the American Council on Education’s College Credit Recommendation Service (ACE CREDIT ™). VADOC gained its accreditation by meeting the rigorous requirements of ACE CREDIT ™.
VADOC requires that all of its educators obtain licensure. Many also hold industry certifications.
During the accreditation process, ACE CREDIT officials visited Virginia, reviewing teacher credentials and resumes, and examining each course carefully. When ACE CREDIT granted its approval in 2016, it also made the five CTE courses eligible for college credit retroactive to January 2014.
With its accreditation, VADOC became the only state prison system in the nation to hold ACE CREDIT recommendations.
In July 2016, VADOC’s prison college credit initiative received the State Transformation in Action (STAR) Award from the Council of State Government’s Southern Legislative Conference, sparking national interest in Virginia’s efforts. It was Virginia’s third STAR Award since 2013.
The college credit initiative in Virginia’s prisons is incredibly cost effective. With students earning 8,983 college credits in little more than two years at a cost of $3.69 per credit, the cost is much less than the same credits earned via traditional college coursework in Virginia.
The courses are offered in varying degrees at 17 different facilities. While no facilities offer all five courses, three facilities (Baskerville, Fluvanna and River North correctional centers) offer three courses. Eleven facilities (Augusta, Bland, Deerfield, Greensville, Haynesville, Lawrenceville, Nottoway and St. Brides correctional centers, Virginia Correctional Center for Women and Central Virginia and Rustburg correctional units) offer two courses. And three facilities (Green Rock, Pocahontas correctional centers and Sussex II State Prison) offer one course.
Visit the VADOC website at www.vadoc.virginia.gov.