What We Do
The New York University Prison Education Program (NYU PEP) is a multi-partner, cross-university initiative that offers free college courses to incarcerated, and formerly incarcerated students. Drawing from NYU’s world-class faculty and staff, our curriculum is a liberal arts education in its most powerful sense. We draw on NYU’s great range of academic experts to show how work in the humanities writ large contributes to our society’s capacity to contribute and succeed, and to teach the public about the role of prisons in America.
The NYU PEP office is situated in New York City where the majority of New York State’s prison population returns to upon release. Given the unique position to continue work with our students, we provide sustained guidance and support to students who want to continue their education after their release. In collaboration with our students, including families and community partners, we also provide a public platform and connective hub for academic and social events, curricular innovation, policy research, and media production aimed at constructively re-envisioning life after and beyond incarceration.
The NYU Prison Education Program (NYU PEP) is NYU’s first college-in-prison program, founded in 2015 to demonstrate how a research university can address the social problem of mass incarceration and expand access to education within the most under-served communities. We offer an Associate of Arts degree to people incarcerated at Wallkill Correctional Facility and leverage NYU’s resources to offer wraparound student services after incarceration. NYU Faculty and staff travel weekly to offer free credit-bearing college courses to nearly 50 students.
Given the nature of the facility, the majority of students admitted and enrolled with NYU PEP generally have 1 to 2 years remaining on their sentence. This means that many of our students will be released from prison during the middle of degree completion. Keeping this in mind, we’ve intentionally designed a curriculum that offers students foundational college courses and build on transferable skills. Students who are released from Wallkill prior to degree completion can transfer their college credits to NYU, or another institution, and can continue working towards a degree post-release.
- 50-60 students are enrolled each semester at Wallkill Correctional Facility
- 280 incarcerated people have earned transferable NYU credits
- 14 students have earned their A.A. degree while incarcerated (4+ prospective graduates in 2020-2021)
- 5 students have earned their B.A. degree post-release
- 21 students have earned degrees (A.A., B.A., or M.A.) through NYU PEP since it was founded in Spring 2015.
- Many students have transferred into degree programs at NYU and beyond, and are currently working towards their college degree.
Our program is unique in maintaining a commitment to our students upon their release from prison; we specifically aim to provide pathways from college-level learning inside prison to a successful transition home. To date, we have been in contact with 124 students who have been released to the five boroughs of New York City, and to upstate New York.
Upon release from Wallkill, students have the option to meet with staff and faculty at the PEP Office on Washington Square Campus for student service referrals, to receive resources through our Bridge Program, as well as can apply to transfer to the Washington Square Campus, or beyond, and are eligible for full-tuition scholarships.
Learn more about PEP students on Campus
The Prison Education Program at NYU is generously funded through external grant money and private donations, as well as in-kind support. Our students receive full-tuition scholarships, living stipends, and other forms of financial aide to support their professional and educational goals post-release.
It is common experience for people returning to society after long periods of incarceration to face enormous barriers to education, employment, and housing. Our funding allows us to eliminate some of these common barriers to prevent re-incarceration, homelessness, and to combat discriminatory practices against formerly incarcerated people. Financial support for our students include everything from providing metro cards to offering paid internships.