Welcome to the second issue of the UCI LIFTED newsletter. 2023 has been a year of incredible growth for us, and we are excited to share our updates and successes with you.

First, UCI LIFTED is currently serving 44 students: 24 in our first cohort and 20 in our second cohort. Two more students have been released and have successfully matriculated to the UC Irvine campus. 

Additonally, 37 new students applied this fall to comprise our third cohort. This includes students from across California who applied to transfer to the Richard J. Donovan Correctional Facility so that they could matriculate into LIFTED if admitted to UC Irvine. Predictably, these students are excelling: 96% of our first cohort made the honor roll at least one quarter during their first year in LIFTED and 56% made the honor roll all three quarters. In short, things are going exceptionally well as the program continues to grow and become a routine feature of higher education in California.

Second, we have successfully supported the first LIFTED replication project at UC Riverside. UCR LIFTED is working to admit their first cohort of 30-40 students at Norco California Rehabilitation Center for Fall of 2024. In addition to advising the UC Riverside team on program development, the UCI LIFTED team has awarded the Riverside campus $150,000 in seed funding from the State of California. This represents our first distribution of the legislative funds UC Irvine received to support the expansion of UC BA programs in California prisons.

Third, UCI LIFTED was the only in-prison college program in the state to receive a competitive $900,000 Bureau of Justice Assistance grant to support expanded programming at the Richard J. Donovan Correctional Facility. The grant will support our plans to develop a second degree pathway within the Richard J. Donovan complex. The reinstatement of Pell Grants for incarcerated students (after almost 20 years of exclusion from federal aid) is supporting all of this work. UC Irvine was the first institution in California to apply to serve Pell-eligible incarcerated students under the new federal rules. Thanks to UC Irvine’s own Richard Arum and Carroll Seron for collaborating in writing the proposal and making this funding a reality.

On June 20, 2024, we will be celebrating the successes of our first graduating cohort. This will be a historic event, and it’s going to be celebrated as such! This important milestone will serve as a reminder of our motto: “When they succeed, we succeed.” This event will celebrate LIFTED students and all who supported the launch of LIFTED, including the State of California, which has played a key role in extending the reach of higher education. 

LIFTED’s community of supporters–including the Michelson 20MM Foundation, the Sun Family Foundation, and generous individuals working within and around the university–continue to sustain us and ensure that our students have access to all the materials and resources they need to excel.

I hope you enjoy reading stories from our students and community partners. In this newsletter, we feature an interview I did with Michael Dennin, UCI Vice Provost for Teaching and Learning, as well as UCI LIFTED’s promotional video for UCI Giving Day. We also include a profile on Criminology, Law & Society doctoral student Gabe Rosales, where he describes how he supports current and formerly incarcerated students and why education is so meaningful to these populations. We also include two essays written by LIFTED students in our first cohort.  

Thank you for reading and joining us on this journey to expand the reach of the UCs and improve educational outcomes throughout California.


Keramet Reiter

Professor, Criminology, Law & Society

Director, LIFTED