Mississippi State Valley University – an HBCU just outside of Itta Bena – is now one of seven non-profits and universities to begin providing opportunities for incarcerated people to earn their college degree this upcoming fall semester, according to a press release on June 3.
Valley State’s Prison Educational Partnership Program, also known as PEPP, has been implemented with respect to an increasingly popular initiative with the Second Chance Pell. The federal program’s ultimate goal is to help incarcerated people gain access to stable financial aid. The US Department of Education said in their statement, “[these] actions to help incarcerated individuals access educational programs [are] part of the Biden-Harris Administration’s broader efforts to support reentry, empower formerly incarcerated persons, enhance public safety, and strengthen our communities and our economy.”
This is a landmark not just important because of the charitable goal of the program but also because MSVU is the first historically black college to implement the PEPP program. Having representation in this program from an HBCU is intrinsic to the program’s growth. As stated in the press release, Provost Kathie Stromile Golden explained that “while people of any race can participate in the program, incarcerated people are disproportionately Black in Mississippi. So PEPP will be a way for them to form a connection with an institution of the Black community on the outside.” She continued to explain that she sees prison education as a way to ensure incarcerated students know that they haven’t been forgotten about.
“Many incarcerated people are parents and relatives of our students,” Golden said. “It’s in our best interest to do something like this because these are the very same people who will come back to our community.”
With the needs of the students in mind, MSVU reported that they’re responding to the significant interest of those incarcerated. They’re expecting up to 50 students for the first semester of classes this fall.