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California Has Money For Ex-Convicts To Go To School. Here's How LA Community Colleges Want To Spend It

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Los Angeles City College is one of nine campuses in the Los Angeles Community College District. (Adolfo Guzman-Lopez/LAist)
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Los Angeles community colleges are competing for some of the $5 million in state grants created to help students who've spent time in prison. The money will bolster growing efforts to enroll, educate and support formerly incarcerated people.

Some of the schools that are applying for grants say they want to hire more counselors to help with everything from food and housing to academics and psychological issues.

The California Community Colleges Chancellor's Office is overseeing the $5 million grant program. The deadline for schools to apply is January 31.

"We're all aware that the cost of incarcerating someone is tremendously higher than educating someone," said Carol Kozeracki, dean of academics at L.A. City College, which plans to apply for one of the grants.

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There are about 250 formerly incarcerated students taking classes at L.A. City College, more than in the past, she said. The increase is due to an effort to reach out to people in prison and to create on-campus programs to support formerly incarcerated students with the transition from prison to the classroom.

Researchers have documented how education does a lot to keep people from committing offenses that will return them to prison.

THE PROGRAMS

Here's a statewide map of existing programs, and links to some of the efforts at larger public campuses:

THE ROADBLOCKS TO EARNING A DEGREE

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Earlier this year the application used by hundreds of colleges in the U.S. removed the question that asked if an applicant had a criminal record. Individual colleges may still ask, but public colleges in California don't.

Formerly incarcerated individuals who get accepted often find it difficult to stay in school without the support of administrators, fellow students and family.

"They sometimes feel unwelcome, they don't see themselves as potential college students and people able to move forward and succeed after they've been incarcerated," said Kozeracki, who noted that her campus won a $600,000 grant last year to offer college classes to formerly incarcerated students. The program was a success, she said, because nearly all 115 people finished the classes and none, as far as she knows, returned to prison.


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