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New grant awarded to support formerly incarcerated students navigate higher education



The Minnesota Office of Higher Education awarded $291,000 in Intervention for College Attendance Program - Formerly Incarcerated Students (ICAP FIS) grants  – a first-time grant opportunity – to four institutions and community-based organizations to provide support services to students who have formerly been incarcerated. Through strategies like mentorship, one-on-one navigation support, career exploration and awareness, and holistic reintegration services, the funded programs will allow for increased and personalized reentry services to students who often face many barriers as they pursue a postsecondary pathway after incarceration. Awarded grantees include both metro-based and Greater Minnesota recipients: Faribault Public Schools Adult Education, Minneapolis College, Minnesota North College and Minnesota State University-Mankato.

Each initiative is uniquely designed to best serve formerly incarcerated students in each region, but all center around reentry support services that allow students to earn a postsecondary degree or credential, expand career opportunities and earning potential, as well as meet workforce needs in their communities. Earning a degree and finding stability in a career dramatically decreases a formerly incarcerated individual’s likelihood to reoffend. The ICAP FIS supports initiatives that foster personal growth, increase job opportunities and successfully integrate into society, helping the state as a whole.  

“In our rural location, we can’t afford to let stereotypes get in the way of being able to let people utilize their skill sets. We can’t afford to define people by one mistake,” said Miriam Kero, Equity Connector at Minnesota North College. “This is monumental to be thinking differently and to finally be in a bureaucracy to say ‘look, we recognize students come to us with things that have gotten in their way and we want to help.’ It’s about how we can provide support to them and help our residents make a life here, and ultimately help our entire region.”

“We are so grateful to have received this grant to help adults in our community at the Faribault Adult Education Center,” said Zach Pruitt, Community Education and Engagement Director at Faribault Public Schools. “This initiative is a really exciting next step in our growing Adult Basic Education program. Now, we get to provide focused and direct support to this specific cohort of adults and grow their opportunities in our community’s workforce.”

At metro-based Minneapolis College, the ICAP FIS will help build out the reentry services program on campus. Through the TREC (Transformation and Reentry through Education and Community) program and a newly opened TREC Center, students have access to multiple layers of support, as well as opportunities to meet students with similar lived experiences and goals, and can receive assistance and mentorship from navigators who understand their barriers to postsecondary success. 

“Their lived experiences are unique, and it is so much more effective to receive support from someone who has walked in your shoes,” said Ann Deiman-Thornton Dean of the School of Education, Public and Human Service at Minneapolis College. “These students can have very difficult barriers as they are trying to transition from incarceration back into our communities. In addition to access to all of the resources that any Minneapolis College student has, we can provide them with that added support to help overcome barriers as they earn their credential, whether it be with housing, food insecurity, or finding a career.”

Read more about each initiative below. The ICAP FIS grant was a one-time funding source from the 2023 legislative session.

Next Chapter - Faribault Public Schools Community Education in Faribault

As part of the Faribault Community Education - Adult Basic Education program, the Next Chapter initiative will support a cohort of up to 25 formerly incarcerated individuals as they pursue their postsecondary education. The initiative will pair each student with a navigator, will provide guidance through transitional reentry period, assistance with college application and financial aid forms, and throughout their postsecondary program as they work toward and earn their degrees.

Paving the Path: Reentry services for justice impacted students - Minneapolis College in Minneapolis

Through the TREC (Transformation and Reentry through Education and Community) program, Minneapolis College, in partnership with Metro State University and the Minnesota Department of Corrections, currently operates in three correctional facilities located in Stillwater, Lino Lakes and Faribault where students have the opportunity to work toward two- and four-year degree programs.

As some students are not able to complete their degrees while incarcerated, the ICAP FIS will fund a re-entry program at the Minneapolis College campus to support the continuation of their academic journeys. Part of the re-entry services program includes a mentorship program for justice-impacted students, pairing them with students who have similar lived experiences. In addition, Minneapolis College will develop a unique orientation program, monthly reentry workshops, and guidebook, as well as a referral and tracking system to ensure students are benefiting from resources.

Futures Forward - Minnesota North College, six campus locations in Hibbing, Itasca, Mesabi Range-Virginia, Mesabi Range-Eveleth, Rainy River, and Vermilion

In alignment with the AspireNORTH program, Minnesota North College will use the ICAP FIS to launch a pilot mentorship program, FuturesForward. The initiative will serve the unique needs of justice-impacted individuals and provide one-on-one tailored support through mentors who will help navigate their transition into college life, their communities and ultimately degree completion. The initiative will provide holistic, wraparound support to enhance student success, retention and completion rates.

Extension of Scholars Serving Time with Academic Reentry Navigator - Minnesota State University-Mankato in Mankato

Expanding Minnesota State University-Mankato’s Scholars Serving Time (SST) program in partnership with Minnesota Correctional Facility-Shakopee, the ICAP FIS will fund a part-time academic reentry navigator who will provide direct support to justice-impacted individuals after they are released. This support will assist in successful post-release transitions to colleges or universities to continue the work they have completed through SST while incarcerated.


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