Millions spent on college for prison inmates in TX

For the past decade, Texas’ imprisoned criminals have been allowed to work on college degrees and take vocational courses while behind bars.

They’re supposed to repay taxpayers once they get out. But of the more than 22,000 felon-students who are out of prison, only 6,630 have repaid the state in full, to the tune of $4.2 million, according to state records.

The remaining 16,088 ex-convicts owe the state $9.5 million, the records show.

Over the 10 years the program has been in effect, the state has spent $26.9 million on higher education for inmates, while getting reimbursed only $4.7 million.

Overseen by the prison system’s embattled Windham School District, which legislative leaders last week threatened to whack from the budget to save money, the little program is now the target of a move to shut it down, as well.

“We don’t provide free college tuition for anyone else like this, so with the budget crisis we’re facing, why should we for convicted felons?” said House Corrections Committee Chairman Jerry Madden, R-Richardson, who said he wants the program eliminated.

“The idea of having anyone paying us back in a program like this is ludicrous. There’s no way to collect.”

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