Returning & Incarcerated Student Education (RISE)

The Raritan Valley Community College (RVCC) RISE program manages the Associate Degree in Liberal Arts program inside the New Jersey Department of Corrections (NJDOC) facilities.  Currently, we have active students in 6 different NJ prisons and correctional facilities, as well as a pilot education program inside a 7th facility.  Each semester, we enroll approximately 500 students in the full variety of courses that comprise a liberal arts education.  We educate students in NJ’s only women’s correctional facility, in all of the state’s youth correctional facilities, which house men in the 18 – 30 ago group, and in 3 of the largest medium/maximum men’s prisons.  In the state’s full-maximum, high-security facility we are trialing the provision of credited coursework. Our degree-seeking students are held to the same success standards as are our main campus students.  

The RISE program uses either full time or adjunct instructors, often using personnel that also teach on the main campus.  Instructional partnerships with other NJ higher education institutions allow RISE to recruit adjunct instructors that are positioned well geographically to teach in correctional facilities that are distant from the main RVCC campus.  All RVCC RISE instructors go through the academic credentialing process used on the main campus.  In addition, they complete several intensive training programs offered by the RISE administration as well as the NJDOC.  Classes are conducted face-to-face.

RVCC held the first ever college commencement inside a NJ correctional facility in 2013.  Since that time, we have celebrated numerous commencements inside facilities across the state.  If our students complete their incarceration period before their graduation, they are welcomed as students on the main campus, or we work to support them with their degree completion on a community college campus closer to their home.  

RVCC was named a Second Change Pell site by the US Department of Education in 2016.  

The RISE program has grown from a few dozen students in a single facility in 2009, to a statewide offering with a rich history in 2020.