A coalition of nonprofit leaders, researchers and program heads are pushing for Massachusetts to make college-in-prison programs a priority for the next administration.

“I think there's a lot of room in this current political moment to be clear that this is something that we want to do,” said Mneesha Gellman, the founder and director of the Emerson Prison Initiative, which Emerson College launched at the Massachusetts Correctional Institution at Concord in 2017.

According to the new position paper out this week from the Boston Foundation, about 213 of the more than 6,200 people incarcerated by the Department of Correction in Massachusetts are currently enrolled in post-secondary education. To signatories like Gellman, there are plenty of benefits of college education programs in prison, such as increasing equity and reducing recidivism — which will also save taxpayers money given the high costs of incarcerating individuals in Massachusetts.

Gellman summarized the foundation's report as asking for a culture change. She and others hope Governor-elect Maura Healey will bring the issue front and center and lessen obstacles, like challenges with finding enough in-person space for classes and access to technology to complete coursework.

“When there is openness for dialogue between the educational providers and the Department of Correction, and that [an] attitude of cooperation and empathy is fostered from the highest levels, then we can make some real progress,” said Keith Mahoney, the vice president for communications and public affairs at the Boston Foundation.

Healey’s campaign did not respond to a request for comment. The Department of Correction also did not respond to requests for comment.

A 2013 analysis from the RAND Corporation, a public policy research organization, found that college in prison cuts the likelihood of recidivism almost in half, and that taxpayers save $5 for every $1 spent in college-in-prison programs. The Boston Foundation authors estimate those savings could be even higher in Massachusetts, where the cost of incarceration is unusually high: $92,000 per year in a DOC facility.

One sticking point in Massachusetts prisons is the availability of space. Mary Ellen Mastrorilli, who’s led Boston University’s Prison Education Program for the last five years, said her program has a dedicated classroom at the two prisons they work in: MCI-Norfolk and MCI-Framingham. But space became more constrained in the pandemic when prisons limited how many people could be in one room at a time.

Specific priorities for her are greater access to academic articles through services like JSTOR, increasing access to technology through setting up computer labs and reducing censorship of academic materials.

“I’ve been in situations where there is a book in the prison library that an incarcerated individual can go to the prison library and check that book out,” Matrorilli said. “But an instructor might want that very same book to be in their course — on their syllabus — and the DOC might not allow it, thinking that it might be too triggering.”

Roughly half of people in DOC prisons have a high school diploma or GED, according to state data. But Mastrorilli said prison education also needs to include programming that creates a bridge to college-level coursework — something she’s discussing with the DOC.

“Sometimes what we bump up against is: if we want to hold a study hall, for example, that needs to be staffed by a correctional employee,” she said. “And if they don't have the staffing to provide monitoring and surveillance of an extra room, for example, then we're inhibited from doing those kinds of things.”

Experts like Gellman anticipate a nationwide spike in college-in-prison programs next year. People in prison will be eligible for Pell Grants — federal aid for low-income undergraduate students — for the first time since 1994, when President Bill Clinton signed legislation banning the practice. With the funding revived nearly 30 years later, it could dramatically expand educational offerings in prisons.