Transforming lives through Christ-centered education is the mission of York College. It’s also the guiding philosophy of the college’s Second Chance Education Program (SCEP), which offers inmates at the Nebraska Correctional Center for Women the opportunity to earn a degree while serving time at the facility in York.

Now in its third year, SCEP has received a grant from Nebraska Department of Corrections’ Vocational and Life Skills program, which funds efforts that create bridges between incarceration and successful re-entry into mainstream society through training and education.

PictureDr. Terry Seufferlein, Associate Professor of Bible and SCEP coordinator
York College provides on-site courses leading to an associate’s degree, making SCEP the only degree-granting program for inmates in the state. According to the National Correctional Association, ​inmates who earn a college degree are 70 percent less likely to recidivate​ than those who do not complete any form of formal re-entry training.

York College will receive $110,000 from July 2018 to June 2020 from the Department of Corrections for SCEP. These funds will be used to underwrite the tuition and books for the students and may be used to hire a part-time employee to manage record-keeping and facilitate job searches for the students upon their release. During its two-year pilot phase, SCEP has been financially underwritten by York College, costing more than $130,000 per year. The grant funds make the program more sustainable and will enable York College to continue the program by enrolling a second cohort in 2019. 

SCEP students pay a $50 fee for each course, taking economic responsibility for a portion of the services they receive. Students take two courses at a time each trimester and complete the degree in 3.5 years. “SCEP students are provided the same course content that our on-campus students receive, and tend to outperform many of their traditional-student counterparts,” said Dr. Terry Seufferlein, associate professor of Bible at York College and SCEP coordinator. “Grades are exceptional in every class. Our instructors are amazed at their dedication to their studies and all agree that it’s tremendously gratifying to be a part of this transformative work.”  

The first cohort includes 10 students who were originally slated for release soon after their graduation from York College and two who are serving life sentences. Though they will not be released, the students serving life sentences were chosen for their ability to impact the culture at the prison and encourage future inmates to pursue admission to SCEP.

SCEP students are treated as traditional York College students as much as their situation allows. They are taught by full-time YC instructors and never by adjuncts. “We believe they will receive the highest benefit from the program if they perceive themselves as women who can successfully mainstream into traditional settings because they have mastered the same academic hurdles mainstream students face,” said Provost Shane Mountjoy, who oversees the program. 

In addition to the good grades SCEP students are earning, they also have an impressively high persistence rate: 92 percent have successfully completed 100 percent of the course hours offered to date. No students have abandoned their commitment to obtain their degree, though one student has temporarily stepped away from her studies to participate in a work-release program. She plans to continue her studies as soon as her schedule allows.