A Prison to School Pipeline

College Students with Criminal Records and Their Transitions into Higher Education

  • Terrence S McTier, Jr. Arizona State University
  • Stephen Santa-Ramirez Arizona State University
  • Keon M McGuire Arizona State University


Very little is known about the experiences of college students with criminal records (CSCR), an underrepresented and minoritized student population. This study utilized a constructivist qualitative methodology to understand the experiences of four CSCRs pursuing higher education. The participant perspectives yielded three noteworthy findings that contribute to limited literature on the experiences of CSCRs. The findings highlight CSCRs’ introduction to higher education, their initial feelings prior to pursuing postsecondary education, and background checks that pose as barriers. Based upon these findings, we are able to understand why supportive networks, specialized resources, and academic assistance are needed for CSCRs.


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Author Biographies

Terrence S McTier, Jr., Arizona State University

TERRENCE S. MCTIER JR., MA, is a doctoral candidate in the Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College, Educational Policy and Evaluation, at Arizona State University. His major research interests focus on the experiences of college students with criminal records and the many factors that impact their transitions as it relates to higher education, the community, and the juvenile/prison system. He also focuses on student voice, qualitative methods and methodology

Stephen Santa-Ramirez, Arizona State University

STEPHEN SANTA-RAMIREZ is a 2nd year Ph.D. student in the educational policy and evaluation program located in the Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College at Arizona State University. Stephen has worked professionally in higher education in Multicultural Affairs, Residential Life, and Migrant Student Services. Stephen’s research agenda centers on race and campus racial climate, Latin@/x first-generation student experiences and support systems, men and masculinities, and diversity and social justice issues in higher education. His approach to scholarship centers on ensuring liberation for marginalized populations.

Keon M McGuire, Arizona State University

KEON M. MCGUIRE is an Assistant Professor of Higher and Postsecondary Education in the Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College and a Faculty Affiliate with the School of Social Transformation. Dr. McGuire's research agenda focuses on the status and experiences of racially minoritized students across postsecondary educational settings. Drawing from Africana and other interdisciplinary frameworks, Dr. McGuire examines how race, gender and religion shape racially minoritized college students’ identities and their everyday experiences. Additionally, Dr. McGuire investigates the ways interpersonal and institutional racism undermine the experiences of racially minoritized college students as well as they ways students resist and respond to such marginalization.