Since 1972, Villanova University has offered the only degree granting program in Pennsylvania for incarcerated individuals.


Mission and History

The Villanova Program at SCI Phoenix—formerly the Graterford Program—is one of the oldest, continuously running degree-granting prison education programs in the United States. Established in 1972, the program seeks to offer incarcerated people the opportunity to obtain a college degree—teaching the same critical thinking, life-long learning and moral reflection skills that are hallmarks of a traditional, on-campus Villanova education.

Villanova University’s long-term support of the program is rooted in its Augustinian Catholic values and belief in the inherent worth and dignity of every individual. The University has emerged as a national leader in prison education as a result of its long-standing partnership with SCI Phoenix.

Luis Gonzalez enrolled in The Villanova Program at SCI Phoenix in 2006 and graduated summa cum laude 10 years later with a minor in history and a marketing certificate. For him, a college education is about more than just getting a job—it was also about learning to be a better person and leaving behind who he was on the streets.

“It was education that liberated women, it was education that liberated slaves, and it is education that’s going to liberate us in due time.”

– Luis Gonzalez

The Villanova Program at SCI Phoenix has a transformative impact on the students it serves. Alumni who return to their families and communities often flourish—obtaining jobs and using their education to give back to the community. In addition to the impact on recidivism rates, a Villanova study showed that students frequently develop social capital and community-building skills, allowing alumni to develop relationships and become engaged democratic citizens—whether they remain incarcerated or re-enter society.

The Villanova Program at SCI Phoenix is free to all students, thanks to the University and the program's generous donors. The University seeks new partners who believe in access to education and its transformative power, regardless of individual’s circumstances.

Enter "SCI Phoenix" in the designation box.


Alumni with a Bachelor of Liberal Arts or Associate of Liberal Arts


According to a 2013 study from the RAND Corporation, individuals who participated in prison education were


less likely to reoffend


more likely to secure employment


Kate Meloney, Director, SCI Phoenix Prison Program