Home » San Quentin College In-Prison Program To Get Guaranteed Cal State Transfer Admission Once Convicts Are Released

San Quentin College In-Prison Program To Get Guaranteed Cal State Transfer Admission Once Convicts Are Released


By Ashley A. Smith – EdSource

Graduates from one of the most unusual community colleges in the country will soon receive guaranteed admission if they choose to transfer to the California State University system.

But first, they’d need to be released from prison.

The nation’s largest public university system is developing a new college transfer program with Mount Tamalpais College, which is located within San Quentin State Prison. The private two-year college is the first accredited institution created within a state prison.


“This transfer program goes right to the heart of our values as an institution and a system,” said Laura Massa, CSU’s interim associate vice chancellor for academy and faculty programs. “People in California, and, well, everywhere, should have access to a high-quality education. There is plenty of data out there on this, that having an educational opportunity is so important to folks who have been incarcerated.”

And that education is one of the main reasons why formerly incarcerated people are successful and become contributing members of their communities, she said.

College-in-prison programs have generally been well received, especially politically, because research shows bachelor’s and associate degree programs in prison reduce recidivism rates and help formerly incarcerated people find jobs once they are released.

Although CSU and Mount Tamalpais are still working out the details, once they are released, students who complete their associate degree at Mount Tamalpais will receive priority admission for a bachelor’s degree program at any of the 23 CSU campuses they apply to. The college currently offers an Associate of Arts degree in liberal arts, and the guaranteed transfer degree with CSU may resemble the Associate Degree for Transfer the university system now accepts from the state’s community college system. There are 26 Mount Tamalpais graduates currently incarcerated in San Quentin.


The program is part of a larger trend unfolding across California’s state prison system. Nearly all the state’s 34 prisons offer associate degree programs through the California Community College system. More recently, the University of California and CSU systems have started offering bachelor’s degree programs in some prisons.

Corey McNeil, a Mount Tamalpais graduate who was formerly incarcerated in San Quentin, said the guaranteed admission agreement is another sign that, despite being in prison, the students are completing quality work. McNeil was released from San Quentin in 2021 and is currently a student at San Francisco State University.

“It’s another level of acceptance,” said McNeil, the alumni affairs associate for the college. “There is a sense among the students that people think the education provided inside the prison is subpar or not the same as in traditional college. So this is huge.
It shows that the education you receive in prison, that the CSUs are acknowledging that and saying we’ll accept that.”

Massa said the agreement with the college could only happen because Mount Tamalpais achieved accreditation. The nearly 30-year-old college exclusively for incarcerated people in California’s oldest prison became the first in the country to become fully accredited in 2022. Since then the college has graduated about 25 students, said Amy Jamogochian, chief academic officer at the college.


San Quentin houses about 3,000 people and has 536 students. Some students take a semester off, so enrollment is currently about 300.

“The fact that CSU is so eager to do this is really heartening,” Jamogochian said. “We want to serve formerly incarcerated people, and we want to make sure they’re doing OK.”

The school-to-prison pipeline and the “learning-disability-to-prison pipeline” exist in California and unfortunately can’t be solved at the college level, Jamogochian said. But Mount Tamalpais and other colleges entering prisons are trying to address that reality and offer strong academics and student support, she said.

Massa said the college and the university system will continue working on the details of the guaranteed admission program so that graduates can be admitted as soon as fall 2024.


Exit 12A November 15, 2023 - 11:03 AM - 11:03 AM

Wouldnt it be ironic if they offer an AA in criminal justice?

S November 15, 2023 - 11:37 AM - 11:37 AM

not really; gotta find the loopholes…

PO'd November 15, 2023 - 11:12 AM - 11:12 AM

I’m assuming that this is free to the inmates, meaning that taxpayers pick up the tuition
fees and other costs. I’m sure there will be some success stories involved here, but my
guess for most it simply a way to pass the time. The article alluded to that:”some students
take a semester off”.

That brings up the possibility of getting hired as a graduate of San Quentin University.
Not likely, but a few will be successes .Most will probably go back to doing what they know

The answer is to build more prisons and put convicted criminals away from the general
population, and not coddle them.

Aunt Barbara November 15, 2023 - 11:16 AM - 11:16 AM

Could be too scary for some students. Many cannot be rehabilitated that easily and safety is an issue.

WC---Creeker November 15, 2023 - 11:20 AM - 11:20 AM

I see a good college plan here, live a life of crime for a while, get busted and tossed into San Quentin. Get free food, lodging and an education. Get out, finish your bachelors degree and get on with your life.

Bob November 15, 2023 - 12:07 PM - 12:07 PM

Plus no jury duty ever again!!!

miguel November 15, 2023 - 5:42 PM - 5:42 PM

Can’t own a firearm or vote in a presidential election

Original G November 15, 2023 - 8:17 PM - 8:17 PM

“U.S. District Judge Carlton Reeves has dismissed a gun possession case against a man convicted of a felony, citing a Supreme Court precedent he criticized last year and ruling convicted felons have a Second Amendment right to own a weapon.”
“As a five-time convicted felon, Glen Prince was facing a mandatory minimum 15 years behind bars when he was charged in federal court with being a felon in possession of a handgun stemming from an armed robbery on CTA train in 2021.
Instead, Prince’s case was tossed out earlier this month by a federal judge who ruled the statute barring felons from possessing handguns is unconstitutional in light of a recent U.S. Supreme Court decision.”
Strange times we be livin’ in.

Mook November 16, 2023 - 12:02 PM - 12:02 PM

Never mind all the raping they’ll have to deal with!

BOB November 15, 2023 - 11:59 AM - 11:59 AM

I’m guessing that this includes the Death Row inmates that Gavin Newscum is reviewing for release.

Whoe Jim November 15, 2023 - 12:07 PM - 12:07 PM

Gavin Newsom is a bonafide criminal lover. Let him pay the tuitions for all the convicts he let out. We get taxed enough from his nonsense…

Ricardoh November 15, 2023 - 12:21 PM - 12:21 PM

Nothing wrong with the program if they are not teaching progressive communist garbage like many colleges are. There is an obvious reason enrollment is low. No need to get into that. Hopefully they have a program to finish grammar school.

Sancho Panza November 15, 2023 - 12:31 PM - 12:31 PM

I think these prisoners are receiving a stronger academic program than our community colleges due to the fact that the teachers are volunteers—they are putting their soul and safety into educating these students—vested interest in their success. The article says they are guaranteed admission into a CSU, not guaranteed tuition payment.
“Our volunteer faculty are drawn from some of the Bay Area’s most prestigious colleges and universities and are placed as instructors and tutors at San Quentin State Prison each term, three terms a year.”

Dorothy November 15, 2023 - 1:18 PM - 1:18 PM

Okay, educate these people. Even allow them to transfer AFTER release. BUT make sure the taxpayers are not being put on the hook for after release education. Lots of bleeding heart can step in and pave their way AFTER release.

Lamorinda Larry November 15, 2023 - 5:13 PM - 5:13 PM

Yeah. Let em borrow and repay with interest like everyone who works to support themselves during college.

While I bristle at most “shoot a gun, go to Yale” pipe dreams, we are all better off if more ex-cons secure marketable skills.

domo November 15, 2023 - 5:05 PM - 5:05 PM

Ridiculous – us law abiding type citizens weren’t guaranteed of ant transfer admission… Cali is out of control

Ripley November 15, 2023 - 5:10 PM - 5:10 PM

So your in prison and decide to get educated which is great, hope it helps and puts you on the right path, but why should that put you above the guy/gal who did it right!
Why are inmate students given guaranteed priority admission? Above those who did it themselves and were probably working at the same time….a lot easier to take courses when as an incarcerated individual you have no other responsibilities.
“The fact that CSU is so eager to do this is really heartening,” as the state will be guaranteeing payment for their tuition why wouldn’t the CSU’s be thrilled.

Saynogo November 16, 2023 - 10:49 AM - 10:49 AM

I’m going spend my kids college fund!!!! Vacation house in Maui or Costa Rica! Hell Both! Kids just get yourself incarcerated! The state will pay!

Cautiously Informed November 16, 2023 - 6:52 PM - 6:52 PM

Of course they will. The demorat run state providing for and standing up for their support base: Criminals, welfare lifers, illegal aliens, snowflakes, the government is my mommy people’s……

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