Bowie State University is expanding its degree program for individuals incarcerated at a state correctional facility.

In November, Bowie State University became the first HBCU in Maryland to offer a program that allows inmates to earn a college degree and that program is now being expanded, per NBC4 Washington.

The program at Bowie State allows incarcerated citizens at Maryland’s Jessup Correctional Institution to earn a Bachelor of Science degree in Sociology and an optional Entrepreneurship Certificate.

Credit: WBAL-TV 11

What started as a cohort of seven students at the correctional facility will now expand to 24 students.

The incarcerated students’ tuition and fees are covered through federal Second Chance Pell Grants.

According to NBC4 Washington, most classes are held inside Jessup Correctional’s library.

Carolyn J. Scruggs, secretary of the Maryland Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services said getting an education has given the incarcerated citizens a “sense of pride.” “It actually changes the climate within how they move every day,” Scruggs said. “Now they feel better than themselves, I would say.”

Incarcerated student, Timothy Hawkins said the program has helped him to feel better about himself.

“I’m not the sum total of my mistakes. I can do something different,” Hawkins said. “Something bigger. Something that’s bigger than me.”

“When it came to education, me and education ain’t mix. But upon me accepting Bowie State, now all I do is read and write,” Jermain Williams, another student in the program said.

Another student, Damon McDuffie shared with CBS News the significance of obtaining a degree from a Historically Black College or University (HBCU).

“My sister actually goes to Delaware State University, so we’re both in HBCUs. My mother kind of happy about both of that,” McDuffie said.

“Committing to education and liberating the mind is really important in this process, and our students are making a commitment to just that,” said Anthony Jackson, co-director of Bowie State’s Prison Education Program.

According to CBS News, the aim is to expand the number of degrees offered and Bowie State hopes to partner with a women’s correctional facility down the line.