This EDUCATION CHAPTER explains the different options available for pursuing your education whether you are currently incarcerated, preparing for your release or are formerly incarcerated. It also explains the options of student aid and funding in order to pursue your educational goals.

DISCLAIMER – YOUR RESPONSIBILITY WHEN USING THIS GUIDE: When putting together the Roadmap to Reentry: A California Legal Guide, we did our best to give you useful and accurate information. However, the laws change frequently and are subject to differing interpretations. We do not always have the resources to make changes to this informational material every time the law changes. If you use information from the Roadmap to Reentry legal guide, it is your responsibility to make sure that the law has not changed and applies to your particular situation. If you are incarcerated, most of the materials you need should be available in your institution’s law library. The Roadmap to Reentry guide is not intending to give legal advice, but rather legal information. No attorney-client relationship is created by using any information in this guide. You should always consult your own attorney if you need legal advice specific to your situation.

What will I learn in the education chapter?


What will I learn?

Getting an education is one of the most important steps you can take in reentry if it feels right to you. Education can open up new opportunities and lead to a better career. This chapter can help you start (or continue) to plan for and reach your educational goals. It covers what programs, schools, and financial aid opportunities are available, and it takes you through the process of deciding what is right for you. The advice here is intended to be practical both for people who are currently incarcerated, as well as for people who were formerly incarcerated and have returned to the community.

A NOTE FOR READERS WHO ARE CURRENTLY INCARCERATED: Throughout this chapter, we will often suggest that you “call” the resource that you need. We understand that it might not be possible for you to make these phone calls yourself while you are incarcerated, however we offer it as general information for you, your family, and your advocates to use for your benefit.

Did you know?

Studies show that formerly incarcerated people who receive general education or vocational training are much less likely to return to prison and much more likely to find employment after their release. In fact, people who participate in correctional education programs while incarcerated have a 43 percent lower chance of returning to prison, and a 13 percent higher chance of finding employment, than people who do not do educational programs while incarcerated.[2655]

  1. 2655

    Allie Bidwell, Report: Prison Education Programs Could Save Money, U.S. News & World Report (Aug. 22, 2013); see also Ctr. for Cmt’y. Alt., The Use of Criminal History Records in College Admissions Reconsidered (2010) (“Post-secondary educational programs have been shown to reduce recidivism by approximately 40 percent. A research brief . . . reported on a Texas study in which participation in higher education lowered recidivism to 15 percent, 13 percent and under 1 percent for people who earned an associate’s, bachelors, and master’s degree, respectively. In contrast, the general recidivism rate hovers around 63 percent nationally. A study of recidivism rates among women showed that only 7.7 percent of those who took college courses in prison returned to prison after release, compared to 29.9 percent of those who did not participate in the college program. State-level studies in Texas, California, Alabama, and Maryland have, over the course of many years, shown significant reductions in recidivism associated with higher education in correctional settings.” (internal quotation marks omitted)).

  1. Questions to start with

    1. What are my educational options?
    2. What educational options do I have while I’m on probation or parole?
    3. What educational options do I have while I’m incarcerated?
  2. Practical tips for Applying to School

    1. What important documents will I need to continue my education?
    2. What are “immunization/vaccination records” and why do I need them?
    3. How to locate your immunization/vaccination records
    4. What should I do if I can't find my immunization/vaccination records?

    1. Some questions for you to think about on your personal educational journey

    2. How your criminal record and incarceration may affect your educational goals

    3. How to choose the educational path that meets your specific educational goals


    1. What is an “educational assessment”? Why do I need one?
    2. How do I get an educational assessment?
    3. Where do I go for a placement test?
    4. Learning challenges and special needs


    1. Adult Basic Education (ABE)

    2. High School Credentials

    3. Higher education overview

    4. Career & Technical Education (CTE) Programs

    5. College & university academic degrees

    6. Applying to college

    7. Earning & transferring college credits—good options if you are incarcerated

    8. Graduate academic and professional degree programs

  6. Paying for your education

    1. How will I pay for my education?
    2. What is financial aid?
    3. What kinds of financial aid are there?
    4. Where does financial aid come from?
    5. Federal Student Aid

    6. California State Student Aid

    7. School-Based Financial Aid

    8. Scholarships