New proposed federal legislation could expand and support students at Austin Community College District (ACC).

U.S. Senator John Cornyn (R-TX) presented the proposal at the ACC Make It Center at Highland Campus on Monday, January 29.

His proposal supports workforce reentry programs — similar to ACC’s program that offers customized certification and workforce training to inmates at the Lockhart Correctional Facility

“There are many barriers that formerly incarcerated individuals face. Each year, 80,000 Texans are released from prison. Unfortunately, 40% within a year and 75% within five years go back,” says Sen. Cornyn. “I find myself back at ACC, saying keep up the good work. It is phenomenal what they are doing here. I just can’t help but be inspired by the people who make this possible and who have chosen a new path.”

The senator was joined by local workforce development officials from the Texas Workforce Commission, Workforce Solutions – Rural Capital Area, and Goodwill, as well as several formerly incarcerated individuals who have since integrated into careers for a roundtable discussion and tour of the Make It Center. 

The new legislation would strengthen a pilot program that awards funding to organizations with a successful track record of providing career development opportunities to formerly incarcerated individuals, like the one at ACC.

“Throughout my work, I have seen the importance of engaging with our students before release. If we can do that and help them build a personalized plan for how they will enter the community, the recidivism rates go way down,” says Don Tracy, ACC Continuing Education Corporate and Community Education director. “We need to build a bridge between being our student, completing their program, and with workforce partners in the community our students will return to.”

In August 2019, the college celebrated the graduation of the first cohort of students completing ACC’s Continuing Education Department certification training at the Lockhart Correctional Facility. The program began with just Certified Production Technician, but in the past four years has grown to include certified Logistics Technician and Welding Technician programs. One of those students was Misty Campbell, who participated in the discussion.

“Upon release, I went to work at ACC. I went on to serve as the re-entry specialist for the college. I am now the coordinator for the ACC correctional education department. I now build special reentry education plans for our students coming out of the system to be better community partners wherever they go home,” says Campbell. “This is something that is near to my heart.”

Through a collaboration with the Texas Workforce Commission and other partners, the CE Division helps connect its graduates with jobs upon release. 

For more information on the Continuing Education Department, visit