Project Rebound

Project Rebound is a special admissions and support program for students impacted by the justice system, or transitioning out of prisons and jails. Operating within the California State University system since 1967, Project Rebound has helped hundreds of individuals earn bachelor’s and master’s degrees. Project Rebound has a proven model to promote restorative justice, reduce recidivism, and empower individuals through higher education. SDSU Professor Alan Mobley directs a team of faculty, staff, and students who assist Project Rebound scholars and prospective students. In addition to providing direct service, Project Rebound provides continuing students an opportunity to “give back” by collaborating on outreach, public education, and holistic justice solutions. “Traditional students will gain a deeper understanding of the causes and conditions that give rise to crime,” said Mobley. “Students will learn restorative justice practices alongside justice-involved students to find ways out of the ‘revolving door’ of justice system involvement.”

Each university will develop a campus-based re-entry program to help individuals prepare for college, apply for admission, enroll, persist, and graduate ready to enter the workforce. The SDSU Project Rebound includes the on- and off-campus networks required for prospective and enrolled students to succeed.

Participating CSU campuses and partners form a learning community to serve students pre- and post-release. Project Rebound partners will share results and disseminate best practices to other campuses and college systems. As the largest four-year university system in the country, the CSU has the potential to further develop the knowledge and research of campus-based reentry programs. These initiatives can also reduce crime, improve public safety, restore communities devastated by mass incarceration, and reverse the “school to prison pipeline.”

A successful university education leads to enhanced self-efficacy, civic engagement, and social and global awareness; it also enlarges the moral imagination and instills skills and habits that assist people in securing gainful employment and living meaningful, responsible lives. By making higher education more accessible and supporting formerly incarcerated students to excel in a course of study, Project Rebound constructs an alternative to the revolving door policy of mass incarceration. We are committed to meeting the needs of students who often face a wide array of challenges that have caused them to be left behind.
We strive to provide each student with the individualized support that they need to succeed. We also act as a liaison with services and programs on and off-campus and advocate for people on campus and in the community. Our work is dedicated to lifting up individuals and communities. After all, college grads contribute to increase community strength and safety!

By assisting formerly incarcerated students and connecting them with other supportive entities, Project Rebound at SDSU attempts to help students with their basic needs so that, through higher education, they can:

  • cultivate skills in critical thinking and writing, oral communication, quantitative and ethical reasoning
  • enhance their capacity for civic engagement and community leadership
  • secure meaningful and gratifying employment
  • empower themselves, their families, and their communities
  • reduce their participation in behavior that is harmful to self, family, and community, including drug abuse and violence
  • humanize public attitudes towards currently and formerly incarcerated people in order to facilitate reintegration and eliminate collateral consequences of criminal conviction related to social stigmatization and marginalization

Through our work, Project Rebound also aims to increase public awareness and inspire meaningful dialogue about higher education and criminal justice in California and the United States.

Guiding Values

1. The Intrinsic Value of Persons. We believe that every person has inherent value and holds the power of possibility and
transformation within them.

2. Equitable Access to Education. We believe that access to meaningful, high-quality, face-to-face higher education is fundamental to breaking intergenerational cycles of poverty, abuse, addiction, unemployment, and confinement.

3. Formerly Incarcerated Leadership. We believe that the integration, education, and leadership of formerly incarcerated people are essential to the work of creating solutions to the social crisis of mass incarceration.

4. Education as Public Safety. We believe that meaningful, high-quality higher education ultimately makes stronger, safer communities; we believe that public resources are better invested in education and other opportunities for transformation than prisons and punishment.

5. Civic Engagement. We believe that community engagement is at once a right, a responsibility, and a means of empowerment; we aim to inspire all Rebound Scholars to be informed and engaged civic agents.

In 1952, John Irwin (1929-2010) robbed a gas station and served a five-year prison term for armed robbery in Soledad Prison. During his time in prison he earned 24 college credits through a university extension program. After his release from prison, Irwin earned a B.A. from UCLA, a Ph.D. from UC Berkeley, and then served as a Professor of Sociology and Criminology at San Francisco State University for 27 years, during which he became known internationally as an expert on the U.S. prison system.

In 1967, Irwin created Project Rebound as a way to matriculate people into San Francisco State University directly from the criminal justice system. Since the program’s inception, hundreds of formerly incarcerated people have obtained bachelor’s degrees and beyond.

In 2016, with the support of the Opportunity Institute and the CSU Chancellor Timothy White, Project Rebound expanded beyond San Francisco State into a consortium of nine CSU campus programs. The CSU Project Rebound Consortium is now a state- and grant-funded network of programs operating at CSU campuses in Bakersfield, Fresno, Fullerton, Los Angeles, Pomona, Sacramento, San Bernardino, San Diego[BROKEN LINK], and San Francisco. Since 2016, Project Rebound students system-wide have earned an overall grade point average of 3.0, have a zero percent recidivism rate, and 87% of graduates have secured full-time employment or admission to postgraduate programs.

Project Rebound at SDSU welcomes inquiries from current SDSU students or anyone who has been previously incarcerated, has prior criminal justice system involvement, has been impacted by the justice system, and is interested in obtaining a university education. For those not yet attending SDSU, below you will find SDSU admissions requirements.


To be eligible, individuals must:

  • be formerly incarcerated; have prior criminal justice system involvement; be on or off parole or probation; have demonstrated significant justice impact (e.g. child of incarcerated parents)
  • possess the ability and commitment to perform college level work
  • be motivated to succeed and benefit from a college education
  • maintain satisfactory progress and complete at least 6 units each semester
  • submit an admission application
  • submit a financial aid application

For first-time freshmen:

  • High School Transcripts/GED
  • ACT or SAT scores

For transfer students:

  • 56-60 units of college credit
  • College transcripts
  • Satisfactory completion of the "Golden Four"

CSU general education requirements ("Golden Four") are designated as the following:

  • Oral Communication
  • Written Communication
  • Critical Thinking
  • Mathematics/Quantitative Reasoning