SF State joins White House Fair Chance Higher Education Pledge


Builds on nearly 50 Years of advocacy by pioneer program 'Project Rebound'

SAN FRANCISCO, June 10, 2016 — Today, San Francisco State University announced that it has joined with the Obama Administration and colleges and universities from across America as a founding partner for the launch of the Fair Chance Higher Education Pledge. This pledge represents a call-to-action for all members of the academic institutions to improve their communities by eliminating barriers for those with a criminal record and create a pathway for a second chance. 

In joining the pledge, SF State is building on nearly 50 years of pioneering advocacy and support for students with a criminal record through its program, Project Rebound. The program supports these students through the entire process of attending SF State, from admission to graduation. And if a participant has problems with parole or trouble receiving a state license for work such as nursing or counseling, Project Rebound is there to assist.

Established in 1967 by the late Dr. John Irwin, a formerly incarcerated individual who became an SF State sociology professor and internationally recognized advocate for prisoners’ rights, the program has helped hundreds of individuals who have spent time in jail or prison earn college degrees, drastically reducing the likelihood they will return to incarceration.

At SF State, more than 90 percent of Project Rebound students eventually graduate, and at a faster rate than the overall student population, according to Jason Bell, the program's director. Bell spent nine years in prison and earned his bachelor's and master's degrees at SF State through the program.

"Education is a powerful tool for social justice, and we see that clearly through the lives that have been transformed through the Project Rebound program. I am proud to sign the President’s pledge to increase our support for individuals with a criminal record and provide more access to an excellent higher education," said SF State President Les Wong.


When an estimated 70 million or more Americans — nearly one in three adults — have a criminal record, it is important to remove unnecessary barriers that may prevent these individuals from gaining access to education and training that can be so critical to career success and lead to a fulfilled and productive life. We are committed to providing individuals with criminal records, including formerly incarcerated individuals, a fair chance to seek a higher education to obtain the knowledge and skills needed to contribute to our nation’s growing economy.

We put forth our pledges as follows:

Project Rebound at San Francisco State University is a special support program for students transitioning out of prison and jail which has helped hundreds of formerly incarcerated individuals to earn bachelor’s degrees and beyond. Project Rebound is a proven model that reduces recidivism and empowers criminal justice-involved individuals through higher education. The CSU Project Rebound Consortium has developed a three-year plan to establish and expand programs for formerly incarcerated students across the CSU system. Each university plans to develop a campus-based re-entry program to help motivated individuals to prepare for college, apply for admission, enroll, persist, and graduate, ready to enter the workforce. Key objectives for the next three years include:

  • Build the capacity of CSU campus administrators, faculty and staff to serve currently and formerly incarcerated students.
  • Create on-ramps between state and county correctional facilities and CSU campuses, and develop connections with reentry service providers to support student success.
  • Identify and support enrolled students and help prospective students to prepare, apply, matriculate, persist  and graduate. 
  • Develop a data collection, management and evaluation system to inform program development and to communicate program outcomes.


San Francisco State University makes things happen. Founded in 1899, it is the only master's-level public university serving the counties of San Francisco, San Mateo and Marin. Its nationally acclaimed programs span a broad range of disciplines. Nearly 30,000 students enroll at the University each year, and its more than 236,000 graduates have contributed to the economic, cultural and civic fabric of San Francisco and beyond. Through them – and more than 1,600 world-class faculty members – SF State proudly embraces its legacy of academic excellence, community engagement and commitment to social justice. For more information, visit sfsu.edu.