Should prisoners get a free college education?

NPR recently ran a story detailing New York governor Andrew Cuomo’s recent controversial efforts. The governor proposes that New York prisoners should be offered a college education free of charge—paid for by New York taxpayers. He feels that if college courses are offered to prisoners, there is a smaller chance those prisoners will return to a life of crime. But like any political debate, both supporters and opposition of the policy have points to make:

The Economic Issue

It costs about $60,000 a year to hold a prisoner in a cell. Once released, that prisoner has about 50% chance of returning to a cell due to future crimes, costing the government more money. A college education for each prisoner would cost an additional $5,000 a year, but has been proven to reduce prisoner retention rates. Therefore, giving prisoners a college education would increase initial costs but would save taxpayers a lot of money over time.

The Moral Issue

Those who oppose the policy, generally republicans, argue that giving a free college education – what they see as an earned privilege – to those who have been convicted of breaking the law would be wrong. Politicians who oppose this issue claim that the government should protect the rights of law-abiding citizens, rather than spending time (and money) sending criminals to school. In their opinion it wouldn’t be fair to current college students, many of whom are paying for their own education out of their own pocket. Why should a prison sentence be a ticket to a free education?

What do you think? Should prisoners be educated for free? Let us know in the comments!


2 thoughts on “Should prisoners get a free college education?

  • April 2, 2014 at 8:42 am

    Welcome to prison. You stole my car. I worked 14-16 hour days to purchase it. You get free shelter, food, clothing, medical, dental, internet, cable and all the time in the world to rest, read and so on. You don’ even have to motive yourself to get up in the morning. Someone does that for you too. I don’t mind paying for your college but I’d like to pay for my kid’s education first if that is ok with you. I didn’t have the opportunity to ask you if you could steal my car. Please excuse me for that. You sure are smart. It seems like crime in America does pay. Maybe I should ask the Governor.

  • March 24, 2014 at 4:17 pm

    Gov. Cuomo needs to get his act together. I have never meet such a stupid governor. I pay thousands of dollar per semester to attend my local college. I don’t work because of health issues, although I have never committed a crime. The fact is that to pay for people who have committed a crime is dumb. Besides, who is going to hire a person that has a felony, not to mention people who are in prison have at least one felony. Cuomo most be smoking something. My parents work hard to provide me with a college education. maybe they shouldn’t have committed the crime in the first place and they could pay for their own college. Honestly, I have the same opinion on food stamps. I hope Cuomo and other government officials realize that people abuse the system. Get your act together Cuomo.

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