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Mount Tamalpais College

Established 2020

In February, the Prison University Project was granted Candidacy for Accreditation by the Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges (ACCJC) for our on-site Associate of Arts degree program at San Quentin State Prison. As Mount Tamalpais College, we will become the first-ever, independent liberal arts institution dedicated specifically to serving incarcerated students. This significant achievement is the result of nearly 25 years of commitment on the part of our staff, faculty, and students. We are grateful to our entire community for making this extraordinary milestone possible.

WHAT WE OFFER

The College at San Quentin State Prison

In contrast to widely-available correspondence courses available at most prisons, we offer 20 intellectually rigorous courses, in-person, to students at San Quentin each semester. Students pay no fees or tuition for our program. Our faculty members—from institutions such as U.C. Berkeley, San Francisco State University, and Stanford University—volunteer their time as instructors, teaching assistants, tutors, and guest lecturers in our classrooms. In turn, we support them in developing and maintaining student-centered and culturally responsive practices through trainings, syllabus consultation, and semester-long support.

OUR STUDENTS

Our students bring resilience, tenacity, and adaptability to the classroom. Many are the first in their family to earn a degree and, like most people in prison, come from California’s most vulnerable communities.


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COLLEGE PREP

Our college preparatory courses help students to brush up on basics of writing and math, and to establish trust and comfort in the classroom setting.


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AA DEGREES

Our Associate of Arts degree program in General Studies provides a rigorous multi-disciplinary education through introductory courses in the humanities, social sciences, math, and science.


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3,731
STUDENTS
Since 1996, nearly four thousand students have taken at least one course with us at San Quentin.
20
COURSES
We provide 20 intellectually rigorous, liberal arts courses per semester to students pursuing their AA degree.
512
STUDENTS
In 2019, 512 students took at least one of our college prep or AA degree courses at San Quentin State Prison.

The story behind our name

Read the full story about our forthcoming new name, Mount Tamalpais College, and what it means to us.

A 25-Year Commitment to Education

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  • 1994

    The Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act is passed. As a result, the number of prison higher ed programs nationally drops from over 300 to fewer than ten.

    The Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act is passed. As a result, the number of prison higher ed programs nationally drops from over 300 to fewer than ten.

    January 1, 1994
  • 1996

    Oakland’s Patten University helps launch the College Program—together with an education administrator at San Quentin, a volunteer coordinator from University of California, Davis, and no budget. For 20 years, it remains the only on-site degree-granting program in a California prison.

    Oakland’s Patten University helps launch the College Program—together with an education administrator at San Quentin, a volunteer coordinator from University of California, Davis, and no budget. For 20 years, it remains the only on-site degree-granting program in a California prison.

    January 1, 1996
  • 1999

    The first student from the College Program is awarded the Associate of Arts degree.

    The first student from the College Program is awarded the Associate of Arts degree.

    February 14, 1999
  • 2000

    After serving four years as a volunteer, Jody Lewen takes over as Director of the College Program.

    After serving four years as a volunteer, Jody Lewen takes over as Director of the College Program.

    February 14, 2000
  • 2003

    The Prison University Project is founded as a fiscally-sponsored project of the Tides Center.

    The Prison University Project is founded as a fiscally-sponsored project of the Tides Center.

    February 14, 2003
  • 2006

    The Prison University Project receives a major grant from the Sunshine Lady Foundation and is incorporated as an independent 501(c)3.

    The Prison University Project receives a major grant from the Sunshine Lady Foundation and is incorporated as an independent 501(c)3.

    January 1, 2006
  • 2014

    Prison University Project staff begins to explore other college partners, as well as the feasibility of pursuing independence, after Patten University is acquired by UniversityNow.

    Prison University Project staff begins to explore other college partners, as well as the feasibility of pursuing independence, after Patten University is acquired by UniversityNow.

    January 1, 2014
  • 2015

    President Obama awards the Prison University Project the National Humanities Medal.

    President Obama awards the Prison University Project the National Humanities Medal.

    January 1, 2015
  • 2015

    The Prison University Project continues to explore the pros and cons of independence vs. establishing a new partnership; discussions with two potential college partners stall due to financial instability and leadership transitions at the institutions.

    The Prison University Project continues to explore the pros and cons of independence vs. establishing a new partnership; discussions with two potential college partners stall due to financial instability and leadership transitions at the institutions.

    February 1, 2015
  • 2015

    The Prison University Project discusses the prospect of seeking accreditation with the Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges (ACCJC) for the first time.

    The Prison University Project discusses the prospect of seeking accreditation with the Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges (ACCJC) for the first time.

    March 1, 2015
  • 2018

    Patten/UniversityNow announces that they have sold their online platform to JFK University (part of the National University system) and will be closing Patten in 2019.

    Patten/UniversityNow announces that they have sold their online platform to JFK University (part of the National University system) and will be closing Patten in 2019.

    January 1, 2018
  • 2018

    The process of applying for accreditation from ACCJC begins in earnest. Mary Ellen Petrisko, former president of the WASC Senior College Commission, is hired as a key advisor.

    The process of applying for accreditation from ACCJC begins in earnest. Mary Ellen Petrisko, former president of the WASC Senior College Commission, is hired as a key advisor.

    June 1, 2018
  • 2019

    In February, the Prison University Project is awarded Eligibility status by ACCJC, signaling that the organization may move forward with its formal application for accreditation.

    In February, the Prison University Project is awarded Eligibility status by ACCJC, signaling that the organization may move forward with its formal application for accreditation.

    February 1, 2019
  • 2019

    From March to July, the staff and board conduct an institutional self-evaluation process focused on the degree to which the Prison University Project meets the Standards of Accreditation.

    From March to July, the staff and board conduct an institutional self-evaluation process focused on the degree to which the Prison University Project meets the Standards of Accreditation.

    March 1, 2019
  • 2019

    The 229-page Institutional Self-Evaluation Report is submitted to ACCJC in August.

    The 229-page Institutional Self-Evaluation Report is submitted to ACCJC in August.

    August 1, 2019
  • 2019

    In October, the Prison University Project hosts a four-day site visit with a 10-member peer review team to determine the organization’s readiness for accreditation.

    In October, the Prison University Project hosts a four-day site visit with a 10-member peer review team to determine the organization’s readiness for accreditation.

    October 1, 2019
  • 2020

    The Prison University Project was awarded Candidate status with ACCJC on January 27.

    The Prison University Project was awarded Candidate status with ACCJC on January 27.

    January 1, 2020