Columbia University has long paved the way in offering opportunities to non-traditional students. As an example, through their School of General Studies, Columbia admits and enrolls more veterans of America’s military than any of our nation’s highly selective universities. We applaud Columbia for their years-long commitment to educating America’s soldiers after their dutiful service in uniform. And veterans aren’t the only non-traditional students attending Columbia. Remember a decade ago when we profiled a Columbia janitor who earned an undergraduate degree from Columbia after fleeing war-torn Yugoslavia and working at the school for many years? Well, today, we’d like to highlight Columbia’s commitment to those who have been previously incarcerated — because Columbia’s commitment to offering a second chance to these folks is rather extraordinary.
As Stella Pagkas reports for The Columbia Daily Spectator in a piece entitled “Seven formerly incarcerated students graduate from Columbia this year, a record high,” “Seven formerly incarcerated students from across the University’s graduate and undergraduate schools are graduating from Columbia this spring, the largest self-reported number in the history of Columbia’s Center for Justice. This milestone reflects the Center’s impact and marks initial progress in what many feel should be a much larger project concerning access to education and reparations for Columbia’s past.
The Center for Justice is an interdisciplinary research center devoted to ending mass incarceration and advancing alternative approaches to justice. The Center’s Justice in Education initiative focuses on access to education, both while individuals are incarcerated and after they are released. Collaborating with other entities within Columbia, as well as community organizations, other universities, and government agencies, JIE brings college courses and other educational opportunities to individuals incarcerated in local prisons and the Rikers Island jail complex. In addition, the JIE Scholars program allows formerly incarcerated individuals to take courses at Columbia, with funding that covers tuition and costs for books and transportation to class.”
We at Ivy Coach wholeheartedly believe that many — though certainly not all — people who commit crimes are deserving of second chances, especially non-violent offenders. You see, for so many, the punishment does not fit the crime for the punishment goes far beyond the length of a prison sentence. It extends to a lifetime of barriers to education and job prospects. Columbia’s commitment to offering these people second chances is to be commended. May other universities soon follow their extraordinary example. Columbia, we salute you!
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