Why college in prison?Texas has one of the highest rates of incarceration in the world, with more than 150,000 Texans currently serving sentences in state prisons and jails. When inmates are released, they face the daunting task of seeking housing and employment with a felony criminal record. In part due to these unique challenges, nearly two-thirds of former Texas inmates will be rearrested within 3 years of release. We want to help change that. Evidence shows that education programs in prison drastically reduce recidivism, making our community safer and changing the lives of formerly incarcerated folks and their families.
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Who we areTPEI is a volunteer-run organization at the University of Texas at Austin offering credit-bearing college courses through UT-Extension to incarcerated youth and adults at no cost to students. Since 2018, approximately 200 incarcerated youths and students have enrolled in our pre-college, college, and enrichment courses, and 60 graduate students, postdocs, and faculty members volunteered with TPEI. We also work with local organizations including The Center for Students in Recovery, and the Travis County Re-Entry Roundtable to enable students to continue their education upon release.
Our missionOur mission at the University of Texas-Austin is to provide credit-bearing, liberal arts education to incarcerated juveniles and adults at no cost. We strive to create educational opportunities, reduce inequalities in higher education, and change the lives of incarcerated Texans and their families. We believe that the liberal arts uniquely challenges students to understand themselves within history, society, and their community. By offering liberal arts college courses, we present incarcerated students with the tools to transform themselves into scholars, leaders, and change-makers.
Our historyAcknowledging the need for higher education access in area prisons, an assistant professor and two graduate students at UT Austin founded the Texas Prison Education Initiative in 2017. TPEI taught its inaugural course at Gardner Betts Juvenile facility in the fall of 2018. Since then, TPEI has expanded rapidly. We have had over 60 volunteers from across campus, including faculty members, post-docs, graduate students, and undergraduates. Our volunteer instructors have now taught more than 150 incarcerated students in multiple facilities in the Austin area.
Our Leadership Team
Sarah Brayne, PhD (Co-Director)
Lindsay Bing, MSc (Co-Director)
Max Lubell (Program Coordinator)
We facilitate three types of programs with the goal of preparing and supporting incarcerated students as they pursue their college education.
During the academic year, we offer credit-bearing college courses in a variety of subjects.
These courses are taught by UT-Austin faculty and advanced graduate students, bringing the same level of rigor, standards, and expectations of UT-Austin courses to students behind bars.
In order to prepare students for the rigors of UT-Austin college courses, all new students take non-credit college preparation courses in math and writing during their first semester in the program. Many of our students have experienced gaps in their formal education, and these courses help students refresh skills and build academic self-confidence.
In between academic semesters, we offer non-credit enrichment courses. Such courses are an important part of the undergraduate experience, through which students discover passions and hone soft skills that are essential for success in higher education and beyond.
Rhetoric & Writing
... and more
College PreparationCollege Preparatory Math
College Preparatory Writing
Texas Success Initiative Exam Prep
EnrichmentIntroduction to Science