Higher Education

Access to higher education empowers people to develop critical thinking skills, gain knowledge, and have the opportunity for upward social mobility. It is particularly important for strengthening the economic prospects of the vulnerable populations on whose behalf Texas Appleseed advocates. Recognizing this, Texas Appleseed has engaged in research and advocacy in two areas: access to higher education for incarcerated people newly eligible for federal Pell Grants and the problematic practice of colleges withholding transcripts from students who still owe some debt to the institution.  

In the case of Pell Grants, starting in 2023, the more than 120,000 people currently confined in Texas Department of Criminal Justice facilities will be eligible to access federal financial aid to support their educational endeavors. By convening stakeholders, engaging with federal rulemaking, and advocating for legislation at the state level, Texas Appleseed seeks to foster a higher education system within Texas Department of Criminal Justice (TDCJ) facilities that is grounded in the principles of access, quality, and equity.

The practice of withholding college transcripts for outstanding school-related debts constructs financial barriers that limit the upward mobility of current and former students, negatively impacting workforce development. Without access to their transcript, students are often unable to transfer to other higher education institutions or secure employment, thereby decreasing their earning potential and stifling economic growth within the state. Texas Appleseed analyzed several public colleges to see how often transcript holds were being used. We looked at data such as the amount of debt owed, how old the debt was, and racial disparities among those impacted. 

Team Members

Headshot of Jennifer Carreon

Jennifer Carreon, Ph.D.

Criminal Justice Project

Headshot of Cole Meyer

Cole Meyer

Policy Analyst,
Criminal Justice Project

Headshot of Jessi Stafford

Jessi Stafford

Senior Research Analyst

Key Statistics

Icon of a piece of paper


Number of outstanding debts from six sampled Texas colleges preventing people from accessing their college transcript

Icon of money or two bills


Average debt amount preventing people from receiving their college transcript, across six Texas colleges sampled

Icon on graduation cap


Estimated percent of Texas jobs that will require a postsecondary degree or certifications by 2036