Our History


Our Road to Success


U.S. Congress Cuts Grants

The United States Congress eliminates educational Pell Grants for prisoners.


Washington State Cuts Funding

The Washington State legislature effectively eliminates funding of post-secondary education in prisons.


Leadership Develops

In collaboration with the Black Prisoners Caucus (BPC), Carol Estes, editor of the national magazine YES! and Gary Idleburg, a county municipal planner, volunteer their time to teach small business management, creative writing, and African-American history inside the walls of the Washington State Reformatory in Monroe, Washington. Together, the BPC, Carol, and Gary envision a University Beyond Bars:  a group of faculty and volunteers who partner with prisoners to help transform prisons into communities of learning. Through their dedication, a prison college program at Monroe is started.


UBB Incorporates

Carol and Gary formally establish University Beyond Bars which incorporates as a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization.


First Associate Degree

The first Associate of Arts degree is awarded to a UBB student.


RiverStyx Grant

A RiverStyx Foundation grant helps UBB expand its operations, becoming a nationally-lauded prison education program.


UBB Helps Educate the Public

UBB co-hosts the National Conference on Prison Higher Education with the University of Washington.


Encore Purpose Prize

UBB Executive Director, Carol Estes, is chosen from a pool of over 600 nominees nationwide and named an Encore Purpose Prize Fellow in recognition of her work with UBB. The Purpose Prize recognizes people over 60 who are combining their passion and experience for social good by creating new ways to solve tough social problems.


UBB's Expansion

UBB shares settlement funds from a court case finding against AT&T regarding phone charges to prisoners and their families. This funding allows UBB to expand its college program to a second prison in the Monroe Correctional Complex, the Minimum Security Unit, which houses 450 men.



2015 marks UBB's official 10-year anniversary.  Today, UBB makes college and enrichment programs accessible to over 1,100 prisoners each semester. With broad community support we look forward to future growth and helping more prisoners improve their lives through higher education.