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New Program Allows Trumbull County Inmates to Earn Business Degrees

Kent State University Trumbull Campus
Kent State University
The BTAS program, which will be administered by Kent State University's Trumbull branch (pictured), builds on an existing two-year program offered by Sinclair Community College in Dayton.

Inmates at the Trumbull Correctional Institution will soon have the chance to earn a business degree. And officials hope to expand the program to other prisons in Ohio.

Kent State University Sociology Professor Kristenne Robison leads the program, which builds on an existing two-year associates degree being offered at the prison by Dayton-based Sinclair Community College. Robison says they chose a business degree for this pilot program because it allows people to pursue several career paths once released.

“They might start working for a business when they first get out, but in the meantime they’re kind of planning their own entrepreneurial efforts,” Robison said.

She cites a 2013 study that found that people participating in an education program while incarcerated were 43 percent less likely to reoffend. And she says there are also mental health benefits to pursuing a degree while in prison.

“The program gives people a space to think and reflect and feel human and then obviously the tangible effects once they get out," Robison said. "It allows people to reconnect with their children who maybe are in college; they can share those experiences with others; they can be role models for their kids or other people in their lives.”

About half of the funding will come from the Department of Corrections, and the other half from community organizations. But in 2023, incarcerated students will have access to Pell Grants for the first time in three decades. Robison says after that, she hopes to expand the program to other prisons.

Kabir Bhatia is a senior reporter for Ideastream Public Media's arts & culture team.