At Central Synagogue

Central Launches Newest Advocacy Campaign: Turn on the TAP

Posted February 13, 2020

On Thursday, February 13, 2020, Central Synagogue launched its newest advocacy campaign: the reinstatement of the Tuition Assistance Program (TAP) for men and women who are incarcerated in New York State. This bill would grant thousands of men and woman access to higher education, a measure which has proven to reduce recidivism rates and increase safety within prisons. With over 100 members in attendance, the evening was hosted by Rabbis Hilly Haber, Nicole Auerbach, and Angela Buchdahl, and the Central in Action leadership team. Special guests included Cyrus Vance Jr., Manhattan District Attorney, Sean Pica, Executive Director of Hudson Link for Higher Education in Prison, and Ivelisse Gilestra, Community Organizer at the College & Community Fellowship.

If you would like to be added to our mailing list to receive updates on this campaign and our social action work, please click here.

See below to learn more about the “Turn on the TAP” Campaign. If you were unable to attend our launch event, the complete video of the evening can be found below. Please feel free to share with friends and your social networks and spread the word on this important initiative.

COLT Campaign Launch

FAQs (February 14, 2020)

Turn on the Tap: Restore Higher Education Funding for Incarcerated Students

College-in-prison is one of the most reliably rehabilitative activities that can be offered. Restoring college financial aid to help low-income people in prison prepare to re-enter society is a moral imperative. New York must restore TAP funding for incarcerated students. Act now and pass S790/A3975.


  • What is Turn on the TAP NY?
  • Turn on the Tap NY is a statewide campaign of community groups and college-in-prison providers working together to repeal the ban on TAP grants for incarcerated students (S790-Montgomery / A3975-Aubry). The campaign calls on the Governor and Legislature to reinstate TAP grants for incarcerated students.

  • Benefits of Tap Restoration
  • - Increased Public Safety Research has consistently shown the benefits of correctional education as a way to prepare people for life on the outside making them less likely to recidivate. A RAND study found that individuals who participated in college in prison programming are 43% less likely to recidivate than those who did not.1

    - Saved Taxpayer Dollars Cost analysis performed by the RAND Corporation found that for every dollar invested in correctional education, taxpayers saved $4-$5.2

    - Increased Employment The unemployment rate for individuals who are formerly incarcerated is almost five times higher than the unemployment rate for the general United States population.3 When individuals participate in college-in- prison programming they are 13% more likely to find employment than those who did not4

    - Strengthened Families Success in higher education in prison carries far beyond prison walls. When parents participate in post-secondary education the likelihood of their children going to college increases, creating greater social mobility opportunities for multiple generations.5

    - Improved Facility Conditions Participation in post-secondary education reduces in-facility forms of misconduct which in turn helps correctional officers maintain safety.6

  • If We Do Nothing
  • - Limited college-in-prison programs that do exist operate with unstable, unreliable funding, meaning they could be gone tomorrow. Programs are currently able to operate because of a mix of unguaranteed private and public funding streams. Many states in the U.S. do not have any ban on incarcerated students from accessing one financial aid program in the state based on their incarceration status.7

    - Those that do exist will be inequitably distributed across-the-state. A majority of college-in-prison programs are located in the Hudson Valley with “educational deserts” in Western New York, the Finger Lakes, and North Country.8 About half of the prisons in NYS have a college-in- prison program, thus it is up to chance if you are placed in facility that offers programming.9

    - College-in-prison programs will continue to be few and far between. Before TAP grant eligibility was repealed, college-in-prison programs were offered in every facility in the state.10 Following the repeal, there were only 4 college in prison programs in New York State.11

  • New York Fiscal Impact
  • The expansion of TAP eligibility would cost the state approximately $15.2 million dollars which equates to only 1.5% of the over 1 billion dollar TAP budget.12 TAP grants to students in prison would not take funds away from non-incarcerated students.13

    To view a PDF of the FAQs please click here.











    11 Audeh T. For Inmates, Class of ’95 Is Last to Get Tuition From State. Times Union. June 21, 1995:A14

    12 College & Community Fellowship pursuant to modeling


    Useful Articles

    Here is a list of op-eds written by students and teachers. You are encouraged to share these on social media:
  • Turn on the TAP for Incarcerated New Yorkers
  • NY could save money (and change lives) by restoring college aid to prisoners
  • Commentary: Tuition assistance for inmates will reduce recidivism