In June 1995, the college program conducted by Mercy College at Bedford Hills Correctional Facility was terminated after 15 years of successful operation. That year, over 350 higher education programs ceased offering higher education in New York State prisons after public funding for them had been discontinued in 1994.
When the college program closed, women experienced a loss of hope about their own futures and the futures of their children. In March of 1996, a group of seven inmates met with the Superintendent Elaine Lord and long-time Bedford volunteer, Theodora Jackson, to explore the possibility of creating a new college program that would be entirely supported by private funds.
Within a year, a college program was created that would involve a consortium of colleges, with each member contributing faculty and/or resources for courses at BHCF. The consortium became a reality under the leadership of Dr. Regina Perrugi, president of Marymount Manhattan College, who enlisted several other college presidents as members. Barnard College, Bank Street College of Education, Manhattanville College, Mercy College, Pace University, and Sarah Lawrence College joined with MMC as members of the Consortium, and in the spring of 1997, college courses were again offered at Bedford Hills.
While Marymount Manhattan College (MMC) had always been the degree granting institution, in September 2004 the Bedford Hills College Program became an extension campus of Marymount Manhattan College, and Marymount now considers itself to have not two, but one student body, with some students living at Bedford Hills, and some not. The students at Bedford take the same courses offered in Manhattan, including the core courses for the sociology major, and a wide variety of electives in art, history, literature, business, economics, psychology, and the sciences.
From an initial enrollment of 39 students and three classes, the program has expanded to currently involve over 175 students per semester in the Pre-College and College Program, in addition to a solid contingency of students who have already earned their Bachelor’s degrees and serve as mentors and tutors. Annually, over 200 women register for college courses.
As of 2011, the Bedford Hills College Program has graduated 142 students; 44 Bachelor’s degrees and 98 Associate’s degrees have been conferred.