The BardBac is a unique, full-scholarship pathway for adults to complete bachelor’s degrees from Bard College. BardBac students enroll full-time on Bard’s campus and enter a network of students from Bard’s other adult education programs–in libraries, community organizations, and prisons–who are doing college in unconventional places, often against considerable odds.
A project of the Bard Prison Initiative—Bard’s response to the crisis of mass incarceration—the BardBac was launched in 2020 in response to the onset of mass unemployment precipitated by COVID-19. Colleges have a unique role to play in responding to the current crises of dislocation and exclusion: the BardBac seeks adult learners whose educations have been interrupted or deterred, who are hungry for robust intellectual inquiry, and are eager to make new, extraordinary contributions to their communities.
The dramatic shifts in employment and social life caused by the pandemic are an opportunity to rethink college opportunity nationally. Everywhere in American life there are vast reserves of untapped talent, potential, and ambition. The BardBac is seeking out that talent in every part of the Hudson Valley; it is designed to engage adult students in a broad liberal arts curriculum preparing them for work and civic life in a rapidly transforming region, nation, and world.

The Fall 2021 admissions cycle is closed. Join the mailing list for alerts when the next cycle opens.

BardBac FAQ At a Glance

Cost to students including tuition and course materials: $0
How old are BardBac Students? 24
How many credits can students transfer? 64

Student Voices

"I thought it was a long shot, but I went for it."—Monica
Keeping that Promise
"Our cohort is a melting pot of ideology, diversity and life experience." —Catherine
A Melting Pot
"Bard has given me a place I feel like I belong."—Kayla
Individualized Experience

“For me, a brown immigrant woman, growing up in an underprivileged community … the BardBac has opened a door to a future where I will be able to help my community.”

“I had always planned on going to school. It never occurred to me that I’d be well into my fifties before I’d finally keep that promise to myself. … Being awarded this scholarship is the opportunity and gift of my lifetime.”

“The opportunity to look at education through a shared vision of aspiring Bard graduates who were given a chance to be counted, be open and be developed is a long time coming.”

Faculty Voices

Omar Cheta, Professor of Historical Studies
One of the main highlights of teaching during the pandemic was having two BardBac students in my course “How to Read and Write the History of the (Post) Colonial World.” They were brilliant. Although modest at first about estimating their academic strengths, within two weeks they each claimed for themselves a central place in class discussions, raising the intellectual bar for everyone, including myself.
Japheth Wood headshot wearing light yellow shirt and dark tie.
BardBac students are less discouraged by what they don’t know, and more focused on making the most of the abundant opportunities here at Bard to learn and develop.
Peter Rosenblum speaking while wearing a suit and tie.
I had two BardBac students in a class on immigrant sanctuary in United States law, both of whom had been involved in immigrant struggles. They would have been great additions if they had simply visited to tell of their experiences, but they were also motivated students who took real pleasure in the opportunity that Bard offered. If they are any measure of the broader group of BardBac students, then this is one of the best things to come to Bard in a long time.
Nora Jacobsen Ben Hammed headshot wearing a dark suit jacket and white shirt.
“[The BardBac student] in my course on “Islam” in Fall 2020…brought such joy and insight into the course. The subject intersected both with her personal and career interests, and her perspective and personal depth added greatly to our discussions both in and outside of class.”