Continuing Education, Higher Education and the Future of Education

Continuing Education, Higher Education and the Future of Education

“As a society, it’s going to be in our best interest, it is in our best interest to begin to recognize and adopt the idea of continual learning.” – Dr. Peter Bahr.

✅ We have to support all of our student populations.
✅ The higher education landscape will continue to evolve.
✅ There are definitely some components of education that are business like.

✅ The community college to university pathway might be more important than ever.

In episode 6 this season, I talk to Dr. Peter Bahr who serves as associate professor in the University of Michigan’s Center for the Study of Higher and Postsecondary Education. His research focuses on the role of colleges and universities in creating and advancing educational and economic opportunities for individuals who are facing the greatest obstacles, including low-income and economically displaced individuals, those who are reentering society after incarceration, adult-age students enrolling in college at an older than typical age, and individuals of other marginalized groups. He works closely with policymakers and institutional leaders, aiming to ensure that stable employment and a family-sustaining income is within reach of everyone.

Join us and listen to Pete speak about his research and how the overlap of serving our communities and higher education has become critical as the needs of our students change.

Links from the episode👇👇
Dr. Peter Bahr’s LinkedIn
Dr. Bahr’s Publications
Meni’s LinkedIn
The Education Beyond Degrees Podcast Homepage



Meni: Hey, I’m Meni Sarris, and this is the Education Beyond Degrees podcast with The Spur Group, the podcast where a continuing education geek goes behind the scenes to talk shop about the people, trends, and ideas impacting our space.

In today’s episode, we have associate professor in the University of Michigan’s Center for the Study of Higher and Postsecondary Education. Dr. Peter Bahr. As a faculty member whose research focuses on the nontraditional learner, we are excited to talk about the academy and continuing education’s role within the institution.

Pete, thank you so much for joining the podcast today.

Peter: Thank you. It’s wonderful to be here. I’m just really excited to have a chance to talk with you and learn more about what you do and share a little bit more about what I do.

Meni: So for those that are following the podcast, As you could probably tell by now, Pete is the first professor or faculty member we’ve had on the podcast.

So this is going to be a really fun conversation looking at it from the what we’ll call the quote unquote traditional side and then talk through a lot of pieces on how faculty and the academic side really looks at continuing a professional education. So this is going to be a really exciting You know, opportunity for us to talk about it and really get, get down to the nitty gritty.

But the good thing is Pete has so much experience in not just working as a professor and doing the, the sociology work that he does, but he understands our market. He does work with disadvantaged students and creating opportunities. He’s done work in grant writing with opportunities for upskilling and reskilling work for students. So I’m really excited for, for what we’re going to be talking about today. So Pete, why don’t we get started and you could just tell us a little bit more about what you’re doing in your current role as an associate professor at the Center for Study of Higher and Post Secondary Education at the University of Michigan.

Peter: Yeah, that’s great. Thanks for the question. Thanks for the opportunity to talk about it. The, you know, as a faculty member at the University of Michigan, we have our primary responsibilities are research, teaching, and service. I was, you know, I would say the majority of my time is spent on research.

My team and I have been really successful in securing very blessed, very fortunate and really successful in securing some large research grants over a fairly extended period of time to pursue lines of research on community college students, on students in technical colleges and students and other you know, less selective or non selective institutions.

our work falls under this umbrella all of it fits under this global umbrella of helping people to get the college education they need to secure stable employment. and a family sustaining wage.

If you think of that as the umbrella on our work, then everything kind of fits together. We work on occupational non credit education, trying to understand how non credit education, especially in the occupational space, is either serving students well or not, and under what conditions, and which students, and so on.

We look at upskilling and reskilling in community colleges, which is often initiated by, like, an economic shock of some kind, or The need to return to work or you know, someone loses their job or their industry disappears, or they’re just not making enough in their current line of work, or they’re not happy, right?

So they come back for some kind of an upskilling or reskilling opportunity, often in a community college. We look at stackable credential sequences, which are designed around helping working students, especially working students or students who are juggling other external responsibilities. to progress from a a lower level credential of value, meaning a credential that actually nets meaningful labor market gain on up through a sequence of higher level credentials.

We’re also looking at STEM pathways. In community colleges, which sounds disconnected, except our lens on the science, technology, engineering and math pathways in community colleges is focused on students who are facing obstacles like disadvantaged students.

So you can see how it kind of all fits under that broader umbrella.

Meni: I love it. And I think it’s really interesting to me as a sociology professor and someone who has been looking at how our society is functioning and how education and people progress through it to get to the places they need to be in their career.

I’m curious, what really resonated with you to begin looking at it from a community college perspective and how that pathway works and just going one step further, speaking to the student population, this at risk student, the disadvantaged, you know, the opportunities to create accessibility into these programs.

What got you interested in that focus of research?

Peter: Yeah, that’s a great question. And it’s I have kind of an unusual background. You may have picked this up. I have kind of an unusual background relative to other scholars and faculty at an elite public institution like the University of Michigan. I was a community college student myself.

And in fact, My first I grew up in a family that wasn’t terribly supportive of going to college, and at one point I had been advised that college was a waste of time, and so I didn’t have as much college going knowledge as some students do leaving high school, and ultimately I secured an Air Force ROTC scholarship at the University of Southern California to study civil engineering.

I was there for a year and I got good grades and did well, but ultimately ended up dropping my scholarship and leaving after a year due to, I think, in retrospect, I think I would call it culture shock or lack of integration. I just kind of wasn’t prepared, I think, for what I was getting into environmentally in terms of the environment.

Although I did well in my classes I ended up securing a job at a wastewater treatment plant, leveraging that year of civil engineering coursework and worked first as an engineering aid. And then on later on as a, a treatment plant operator.

So I worked there for a number of years and went to school, worked at nights, went to school during the day at our local community college. But I, again, didn’t have much in the way of guidance, right? I, I wasn’t clear where I was headed professionally. I know I wasn’t terribly satisfied in the work that I was in, and I wanted to move towards something that was kind of more people focused.

So anyway, I spent about four years at the community college and ended up completing four associate degrees along the way. Again, sort of meandering, being good at school, but being unclear, unclear how to, you know, what’s next? What do I do next? How do I get where I need to go?

Where am I even trying to go? And then a casual word of advice from my my boss at the treatment plant actually sent me on the transfer pathway to California State University, Sacramento. So I ended up transferring there and drove. Something like 45 minutes to an hour, one way each, you know, every day that I had classes while I was continuing to juggle this night job.

Finally finished my baccalaureate degree there, in criminology of all things. And then still was unclear what I should do, and so I re enrolled for another term of courses. Took a stats course, and there, an instructor made an offhand comment about pursuing a graduate degree in sociology. So again, a casual word of advice launched me off in that direction, and I applied to a s a single you know, doctoral program, master’s doctoral program in sociology, not knowing enough, not really knowing anything about what I was doing.

And so thankfully I got into the, the master’s doctoral program in sociology and it was there actually that I discovered a love of research. That sent me down the path that I’m on, you know, this sent me into that line of work, into the academy and into research and so on.

Meni: So that’s so interesting coming from a family that you said wasn’t very supportive of going to college and then, you know, not really having good guidance. You know, this actually takes us back to an earlier episode this season of the podcast with Dr. Carrie Munro talking about helping, helping kids understand.

The path forward. I’m wondering now with all this experience, the research you’ve done your past life and getting to where you are. I’m curious how you would talk to somebody who was in a similar situation that you were in. Maybe their parents didn’t really understand higher ed or the future of, you know, what education means or didn’t have that guidance or their high school didn’t have a career center.

We’ll quote unquote career center. What would you what would you say to a student like that or to to a younger person? It doesn’t even have to be younger actually someone who hasn’t figured out their path yet. What kind of advice would you give them?

Peter: Yeah, that’s such a good question. I I would say one you need, you want to get some sense of what your career, what your career interests are, right?

And a lot of times we don’t know, but we may have some sense of the areas in which we’re strong or in which we, you know, have, have capabilities, what have you. And I’ll give you a for instance on this. I took way back when in high school, in my senior year, I took a career I think all, if I remember correctly, all the seniors were taking this.

The career guidance inventory questionnaire or something like that where they would basically based on your scores to Answers to various questions, they would recommend one of you know, a hundred or several of a hundred possible Career pathways and wouldn’t you know, I the two the two highest scoring for me were sociologists.

I had no idea what that was And church pastor, like church leadership that hit for me. And and so it gives you a sense that those kinds of instruments can be useful. Of course, they don’t stand on their own, right? What I probably needed at that time was you know, several different voices of advice coming in and saying, okay, you may have scored on sociologists.

You may have no idea what that is, but let’s talk about what sociologists do. And let’s talk about how you. Pete can explore the different kinds of things you could do as a sociologist while you’re in college, right? So taking classes in economics, taking classes in political science, taking classes in criminal justice, taking classes in sociology or psychology, what have you, and exploring these different domains of knowledge and learning that would allow me to have some exposure to the possible lines that I could go down. In terms of my education and then my career opportunities.

Meni: I remember those tests, and I remember mine was teacher, volunteer, Or, I think the last one was construction worker, which was hilarious.

Yeah, and I remember, I remember taking the test and wondering what’s the algorithm to get to this point? Like, it’s, it’s so interesting and times have changed so much now. I think these inventories have. you know, gotten a lot better. And with the, with the use of generative AI, I’m sure it’s going to be really interesting how, how that even progresses.

But as we, as we talk through the journey, the student journey and your research and how you’ve looked at the community college space, and even looked at non credit, you know, we talk a lot about continuing a professional education here on this podcast. And one of the things that I’m I’m very curious about is what your perspective and what your thoughts are on the continuing education space and how it impacts our education environment as we’re moving forward.

Peter: Yeah, that’s a great, again, that’s a great question. My view of it is that society. Technology, the economy are moving at an accelerating pace, right? If you have kids, you know, you can see it clearly, you know, from one generation to the next. What a massive change. is happening.

But even in the course of a young child’s life, things are moving so quickly and evolving so quickly that I it’s simply not realistic to think that folks are going to be able to go to school. For, you know, two years or four, you know, go to college for 12 years of high school or 12 years of K 12 and then two years of college or four years of college or even eight years of college and they’re done That’s it’s not realistic to think that folks are going to be able to learn everything.

They need to learn In when we’re operating in an environment that’s evolving so quickly. So, as a society, it’s going to be in our best interest, it is in our best interest to begin to recognize and adopt the idea of continual learning. Now I don’t think that necessarily has to be done in a formalized way, you know one of the things that I tell my students is, part of what getting a PhD doesn’t make you an expert on everything.

In part, it makes you really good at teaching yourself things, right? Ideally, that’s one of the results of a PhD is that you feel equipped and know enough of your domain that you can go and learn new things on your own. But I think continuing education becomes an important vehicle for folks to continually update or continually advance their knowledge and their understanding, their skills, their capabilities of operating in this environment.

And if we can begin to adopt that view, and then from that view, Make continuing education truly feasible for folks, right? Embed that in our society, in our workplace, in in our education in ways that make continuing education accessible, reasonable, doable valued by, as a society that, and even celebrated that folks would be continually advancing and growing and progressing in their knowledge and their capabilities and their ability to stay on top of. Their environment.

Meni: Now, the University of Michigan doesn’t have a centralized continuing education department. Are you aware of that?

Peter: I would have guessed that, but I was not aware of it.

Meni: So, there’s some continuing education work in the health field and the social work field, and I’ve even had conversations with the education, the College of Ed, to talk through how to do more continuing education programming for the university.

And one of the interesting things that I find with major universities, like the University of Michigan who doesn’t have it is they’re not necessarily aware on the value that continuing education could bring to the university and not just in terms of having more educational offerings, but what it means to the community and not just the surrounding community, but communities all around the state and the region that could be supported by programs. from University of Michigan who will allow students to move faster or to get the education they need or get the training they need to move into a different career space or whatever it might be. If you were to ever try to pitch an idea to University of Michigan to start a continuing education department based on your research and based on what you just said that everybody’s educational journey is different, how would you go about talking through the benefits of this for the university?

Peter: That’s yeah. Oh, my goodness. That’s quite a, that’d be quite a daunting task. But I have to say I would make it even more daunting. If I were given the option of how I was approaching this, I would want to approach it from the standpoint of a consortium of universities and colleges as opposed from what to looking at just one institution.

You know, you have the part we have. We have a number of state universities, great state universities. We have a number of colleges. Excellent community colleges in this state. A number of other institutions that are excellent private institutions that are excellent as well. And I think our best bang for our buck, the best sort of return on investment, both in terms of dollars, but also effort and You know, just what’s gonna best payoff for the students is gonna come when the universities and the colleges get together and figure out where the comparative advantages lie.

Like, there’s some things that the University of Michigan can do really, really well, maybe better than someone’s other institutions. There’s some that Eastern Michigan University are going to be able to do better than other institutions. There’s some of the Jackson Community College or Washington Community College or Oakland Community College are going to be able to do better than other institutions and finding those comparative advantages and focusing in on those spaces.

And then, as you mentioned, I alluded to making this available, making the education available through platforms that don’t require physical residence, co locality with the Department of Education is where. Is where I think we’re going to get a real payoff. So that would be my argument or my case to make, not just to the University of Michigan, but collectively to the universities and colleges in the state of Michigan.

Meni: Isn’t it wild how that hasn’t already happened? Like it seems like such an obvious. moving forward idea to create this partnership, this consortium, where those opportunities are made available. You’d think that every state, and honestly, the whole country, if we were to bring in higher ed institutions to create more opportunities. It’s always baffled my mind how, how we don’t have that.

In place already state statewide or even nationally, bringing more programs together to create more opportunities. It’s really interesting.

Peter: On a percent that part of it is, I think, the ballot, the tension and balance between. The the creativity that happens when we give institutions. I mean, this is true of individuals, too, right?

But we can scale it up and we can say, you know, as a university professor, I have a lot of latitude to move into terms of my research and that almost an entrepreneurial component to it. And that leads to a great deal of creativity, right? Like I have room to move. I’m not I’m not really constrained in terms of my research agenda.

You know, for the moment, there are some constraints on it, but Overall, I can pursue the lines of work that I think are important or that I see as important as I’m kind of moving through the world and meeting with other scholars and meeting with policymakers and so on. And that’s led to innovation, interesting work, I think, interesting work, and hopefully valuable work.

But that’s that creativity of the individual. Institutions have that too, right? An individual, an individual institution that’s not that’s not, that has latitude to move will be able to act more quickly and create new new things that are wrapped more rapid pace than would a completely state coordinated set of institutions, right?

Something that’s a number of institutions that are all simply, you know an expression of the of a of a larger state organization. And so that freedom of movement, I think, is good, but it has to be balanced, or I think it’s probably best balanced by some level of coordination, like a state higher education coordinating board, right, that can help the institutions to communicate with each other, help to kind of manage the flow of resources and the the, you know, the identification of comparative advantage and exercising comparative advantage.

In ways that are in the best interest of the public. So some kind of coordination is valuable, but we wouldn’t necessarily want to lose all of the flexibility. That, and all the, the creativity that, that arises from flexibility, whether at the institu individual institutional level or at the individual actor level within the institutions.

Meni: You used a word in that statement. entrepreneurial. And that is not typically a word we associate with higher ed. And for us, in continuing professional education, that’s what we’re known for. We are the creatives who are entrepreneurial or build programs and are able to move quickly and respond to what the market is demanding, which typically doesn’t happen in the traditional setting.

 If I were to give you the statement, education is a business, how would you respond to that?

Peter: There are definitely some components of education that are business like. But in, in some respects I think we have to be cautious about treating higher education in particular. Or really, I suppose education at any level, but I’m thinking about it from the higher education perspective because that’s where I am.

As purely business in nature or an exact replication of what we see in the business world. I read an article years ago, and I, you, you’re gonna send me chasing it down to look it back up. But the gist of the article was that students are not consumers. And that the shift in mentality towards students as consumers is counterproductive.

One of the things that struck me about that, one of the arguments was that consumers often know or can know a heck of a lot more about what constitutes a high quality product then students can necessarily know about their education, right? Because part of the reason you’re in the classroom is because you don’t know the topic already.

And so you can’t necessarily, you won’t always be in the best position to decide whether this education is High quality or not, right? It’s years later that you’re going to discover whether that education paid off. I mean, the best into I teach graduate level statistics. The best indication that I did a good job is with former students come back.

We’re now researchers or academics or policymakers or whatever they are. Come back to me and said, Hey P, man, I am still using that, the statistics you taught us in that class, which happens. Thank God that happens. And that says, okay, I’m doing a good job. Now if I’m teaching it really effectively, it doesn’t necessarily mean that every student in my class right now is going to love me on the topic, right?

It isn’t necessarily immediate satisfaction that we’re aiming for. I think we often are kind of like leaning into that to our detriment. But immediate satisfaction is not necessarily our goal as an higher education institution as teachers. We’re trying to impart value based on what we know about the domain, about the field, about professional opportunities, value that will be lasting beyond whatever immediate satisfaction there is or isn’t with the topic by students in the class right now.

That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t strive to have satisfied students, right? We should strive for effective teaching practice. So there is effective instruction and less effective instruction. But I don’t think that the model that treats the student instructor relationship as purely transactional and business like is is going to yield the best possible benefits for students for the universities, for society, or for the business world, since the business world is counting on us as higher education institutions to help prepare the next generation of the workforce, of, like of creativity, of ingenuity, of, like, new ideas right? Like, that’s, that’s part of our job. So I think that’s an important caveat to put on higher education as a business.

Meni: Well, you used another word that it pinged me immediately the moment you said it is the word value. Right? My, my kids, I have three kids, six and under, and I’m trying to teach them value of just little things like their toys and what happens when you break them. Right? Trying to define the value of education has gotten one, it’s gotten really political and that’s, that really sucks, but it’s also gotten. A lot of conversations happening on what does higher ed and all types of education, post high school education, what is the value of it? And does it still bring that? I hate to use ROI, but. The investment of the money you put into it is the value still there once a student completes and and takes on these Long degree programs if they go to, post baccalaureate degrees It’s very interesting and I don’t know that I’m gonna ask the question is there a value to it but I’m wondering if you were to try to describe what intrinsic value there is to a student matriculating through a four year university or two year college and then creating that pathway, where would they really see that value come in?

Peter: Yeah. Yeah. That’s a, that’s a good one. It is a complicated issue. And I think too often in our soundbite world that we live in, this has disintegrated, devolved down into strictly a monetary Calculation about ROI now, my view is that higher there probably are some exceptions. I am hesitant to ever make statements that are universal.

But my view is that higher education writ large, whatever the topic should involve skills that will be valued in the workforce, right? This points to a mental divide between something like career and technical education and general and general education.

So somehow we think that you know, philosophy and I don’t even know, English or math or whatever these topics that we put in the general education there isn’t common space with the career and technical education side where you might get your associate degree in water and wastewater technology, but in reality, that divide is manufactured.

That’s not real, right? All the things that we learn whether it’s on the career and tech side or on the general ed side, have potential occupational applications. On the general ed side and on the career and tech side, they have a foundation or basis in the sort of general education inquiry so I think bringing these, letting go of this divide or, or bridging this divide in our minds and recognizing that really all education can have both the goal of helping strength, develop and strengthen a thinking person, right? Our thinking ability as human beings. And can also develop and strengthen skills that have direct workforce application.

We can think about it in the business setting. Like, these are, these are both theoretical constructs and concepts and even philosophical ideas about what the meaning of things is. And they’re also applicable to the real world, world in terms of occupational skills. So if we were to come at all of our higher education topic, all of our higher education, I think, with the recognition that really both need to be happening all the time or both need to be happening in all of our teaching, we would be a lot better off. And the net result is that we could think, I took a long, circuitous route to get back to ROI. If we’re thinking in those terms, we’re recognizing that ROI is both about your ability to secure stable employment and a family sustaining wage after school or during school, which is the umbrella under which my work, all of my research fit, by and large, most of my research fits.

But we can also recognize that the ROI is going to be in our assisting and supporting the development of thinking persons, persons who have critical thinking skills, who have More than enough knowledge to be able to participate successfully in our democracy and evaluate the decisions that are before them every day and to, you know, engage in civil discourse in this country.

So both can happen and both are part of the ROI.

Meni: Well then that leads to the next question. We have Higher Ed’s been evolving for years. It’s been changing. It’s been forced to change. We’ve seen several schools shut down because of budget issues and the business part of things, but In reality, higher ed and academia is also evolving, and I’m wondering, what do you see the future of higher ed to be in the next five to ten years?

Like, obviously, we’re not talking about the enrollment cliff that is coming. Just the academy or higher ed, how do you see it continuing to change and continuing to make sure that the students are getting the, the educational experience in their journey that they should be getting?

Peter: What do I see, or what do I hope I’m going to see?

That’s, that’s the question.

Meni: Well, actually, you know, I, I think it’s, I think it’s both. I think I’d love to, I think everybody would love to hear from a faculty perspective, what do you hope, and what is the reality of it?

Peter: I mean, I’ll, maybe I can start with the reality. I think my concern and you alluded to this earlier, is about the way that sort of constraint on voice in the Academy.

The the way the political environment is interface. I mean, there’s always going to be some level of interface between politics and higher education, understandably. But I think the intertwining of these things has gotten problematic. And so when I look ahead to the next five or ten years, I’m concerned about that.

I’m concerned about what that will mean for higher education. I’m concerned watching a good portion of our, seemingly a good portion of our country, have deep concerns about the value of higher education. And concerns about the role that education is playing in thinking and the way people view the world.

And so, I don’t know, it’s, it’s troubling to see the divide that we have on so many fronts in the United States. And higher education is one of those fronts where we have this increasing chasm in viewpoints.

What I hope to see is a reemergence of a recognition that Faculty and universities have a responsibility for free and open inquiry, for honest discourse, for identifying and pursuing the research questions and the questions of effective teaching and the questions of meaningful service to the community that we have carried as our responsibility really from the beginning.

So I’m hoping that we re embrace those things and run headlong towards them. I think that is the place that the university belongs. And higher education belongs. But I’m not super optimistic that that’s going to happen in five years. Maybe it will, but I’m not very optimistic about it.

Meni: Yeah. I mean, it’s, it’s tough. The political landscape around education for the last year, but really for the last five, six years has been unfortunate. That’s probably a pretty decent word to start with, and I think not just what you’ve said, but even if somebody were to go look at your CV, which is available online, by the way, everybody, if they were to look at your CV, they can tell just by the work you’ve done and kind of where you’ve positioned yourself in the academy and with your interest in working with these different types of students and understanding what the market says. I think this path makes a lot of sense to what you’ve also been saying. And that kind of leads us to the final question that I always ask on every single podcast. If there is a way for you to talk about your legacy, what do you want your legacy to be in education?

Peter: Yeah, that’s, I mean, my legacy writ large, I have to answer that one first, if you don’t mind.

My legacy writ large, like, I’m a person of faith, anyone who knows me knows that. And my, my true legacy is in my children. And I know you, you have three children yourself. I have four ages six to 12. And my legacy will be in you know, young people who grew up to be a functioning adults who have faith in Christ and seek to do what I feel responsible for myself.

And then I tell them, I said, look, you’ve been given able bodies. You’ve been given sharp minds. You need to use those to improve the world for other human beings. Like these are gifts to you and you should, you need to use them effectively for the benefit of others. And that’s the responsibility that I feel that I have as well.

In my legacy and education, I, I hope will be somebody who tells the truth even if it’s unpopular and someone who helps other, who both advances. Research in rigorous ways and meaningful ways and investigates the individuals and investigates how to improve life for the individuals who have the least and who have the greatest disadvantages, but also helps others learn how to do that effectively as well, right?

It’s one thing for me and my team to pursue a line of work that to the best of my understanding at this time is valuable in terms of improving individuals lives. Out there in the world. And but I also want all the folks who work with me on my team, whether it’s for a short time or a long time to learn the skills and learn the perspectives that will allow them to do the same thing going forward and hopefully forward and forward and forward generation, generation, generation.

That’s my hope. And if I may, I’ll give you a for instance on that. My team and I are and we are pushing into or venturing into a new line of research for us on post secondary education in prison. And if you were to ask me, what do I think is the most valuable line of work that we’re developing right now, it’s that.

 There are very few individuals who have more working against them than a returning citizen from incarceration. Someone returning to the community and returning to citizen, you know, full citizenship. And. We need to do everything we can as a society. And I feel like this burning need, desire to figure out how to do post secondary education in prison effectively so every returning citizen, everyone who’s walking out of incarceration has not just a fighting chance, but a real viable chance to land a stable employment and a family sustaining wage.

And right now in many places that does not exist. So as a society, we need to be, I personally think we need to be invested in that. And I and my team are invested in developing that line of work and figuring out what we may be able to contribute to doing that effectively.

Meni: I mean, you’re preaching to the choir here.

One of the things we do, it’s the part of the Spur People’s Group is trying to fight recidivism and the work, in my past specifically, I’ve always agreed with you. I think it’s a, an unbelievably large population that is just being so underserved and it’s unfair. I mean, anybody who does that work and understands the difficulty in that work is just doing some great things for our community because everybody deserves a fair shot and the difficulties and getting that education into that system has just been so hard for so long.

Peter: Yes, even, even states where that’s being done well, it’s still incredibly challenging to deliver high quality, comprehensive education, and more than that, like all the supports. That I needed to figure out how to navigate you know, jobs and career and education, and I was, you know, free, not incarcerated, and I didn’t have the stamp of prior incarceration working against me.

That individuals who are incarcerated need all of the same support as well. Young people Older people, I mean, folks often end up incarcerated because of these adverse circumstances to begin with. These are things working against folks to begin with, and that’s only worse as a returning citizen. They’re only facing more challenges as a returning citizen.

 The beauty of this line of research is, it’s a case that you can make to anybody, virtually anyone on any end of the political spectrum, right? Like I can, to someone who is very punishment oriented, I can say to that person or that policymaker there is there’s no economic advantage to making it harder for people to stay out of prison, right?

There’s every economic advantage. It is less expensive to give people the tools they need to succeed than it is to have them be reincarcerated. Right? So that’s folks on the extreme sort of punishment line of things. And then other folks on the other end of the continuum. It’s very easy to say the thing that I believe, which is everybody needs a second, a third, a fourth, a fifth chance.

Right. Like we all have needed it at different times in our lives and folks who are incarcerated need as well. And I feel I have a responsibility to do something to improve that. And the area that the plot of ground that God has given me to plow happens to be a research plot of ground. And so I’m going to go plow the ground that I have to try to improve the lives for as many people as I can. But especially heartfelt now for returning citizens.

Meni: Well, for all of us that do that type of work, we thank you for continuing that and I, I have to say when I have conversations with faculty, we tend to have different views on things, but I have to say, I love hearing from your perspective, the work that you’ve done, the work that you continue to do there’s such a sense of community in everything and I’m so thankful that I got the opportunity to meet you and understand the work you do and really, I respect so much how you work with these populations and making sure that they could get back to where they need to be. And I hope you could send a pitch to the University of Michigan. You seem like the right person to get something bigger going from a university with such a reputation, but anyway, having that ability would be something, something great. So thank you so much, Pete, for being on this podcast. Thank you for sharing with us and being so open and honest in this conversation. I really do appreciate it.

Peter: Thank you, sir. I it was truly a pleasure. I have to say this is just the most interesting conversation I’ve had all week.

I really enjoy talking with you. And if I may ask, maybe think about having me back sometime. I’d love to chat with you some more.

 Thank you for listening to this episode of the Education Beyond Degrees podcast with The Spur Group. If you liked what you heard, you can find this episode along with a ton of other resources on the website. See you on the next episode.