At Elgin Community College (ECC), a number of students have justice records, and many are still juggling the mandates of that prior involvement while pursuing new careers. These students face myriad barriers, including scheduling conflicts, technology access, ineligibility for financial aid, lack of stable transportation, and lack of access to childcare. ECC seeks to explore the challenges faced by students who have lived experience with the criminal justice system and how to improve their experience at the college. College leaders seek to learn more about the barriers these students face and what types of support they need to succeed at ECC, and to develop professional development to ensure faculty and staff are well-equipped to serve this student population.
Building from years of experience in driving and facilitating cross-agency alignment and policy development around college and career pathways, along with recent efforts to assist the Illinois Department of Corrections in better preparing justice-impacted individuals for life and gainful employment beyond incarceration, the EdSystems team is applying its experience and knowledge of long-term system building efforts to support Elgin Community College as it seeks to better serve its students with experiences in the carceral justice system.
Beginning in 2023, EdSystems is using both our systems orientation and expertise as well as stakeholder engagement processes to provide scoping and goal-setting support to ECC as they launch a task force to identify key strategies to meet the needs of this student population. Through focus groups and empathy interviews with key stakeholders, staff, and justice-impacted students, EdSystems will gather data to inform the creation of a framework for the task force to develop recommendations and programming for justice-impacted students. Through this work, in combination with desk research and sharing of state agency-level efforts, EdSystems will also produce a series of documents to guide the task force as it prioritizes opportunities for supporting students better, creates professional development opportunities for staff, engages community-based organizations, and develops a network of cooperating employers.