USF St. Petersburg campus Honors Program Theses (Undergraduate)

First Advisor

Dawn Cecil. Ph.D.

Second Advisor

Lori Hall, Ph.D.

Third Advisor

Thomas Smith, Ph.D.


University of South Florida St. Petersburg

Document Type


Publication Date


Date Issued



Education serves as potentially the greatest instrument of change and self-improvement within the modern society. With higher education comes a variety of skills and opportunities that foster success within the modern world including lucrative employment, personal growth in relation to skills and knowledge, as well improved mental health, and sense of belonging (Runnel, 2015). Unfortunately, the university system within the United States is designed to exclude a large population of people, those with a felony convictions. As of 2019, the United States has an estimated 24 million individuals with a felony status on their records (Eberstadt, 2019). For these 24 million individuals, having a criminal conviction causes significant felony restrictions that limit their ability to succeed, including restrictions within higher education. While efforts have been made to ease these restrictions, there are still significant efforts that must be made to make higher education more accessible and inclusive to system-impacted individuals, both currently and formerly incarcerated. The intention of this research is to assess the educational barriers and existing opportunities for justice-involved individuals with felony convictions to advance their education. With the understanding of these barriers, this research seeks to assess the features of current programs and policies existing within the university setting with the intention of making recommendations on the development of inclusive and accessible programming of higher education for system-impacted students.


A Thesis Submitted in Partial Fulfillment of the Requirements of the University Honors Program University of South Florida at St. Petersburg Fall 2020.