Second Chance Pell Grant Pilot to Educate Prisoners

(Photo: Petr Svab, Epoch Times)

(Photo: Petr Svab, Epoch Times)

The Department of Education has announced the selection of 67 colleges and universities to participate in the new Second Chance Pell pilot program created in July 2015 in response to the Obama Administration’s push for a more fair and effective criminal justice system.

First announced last summer, the program was created in an effort to determine whether participation in higher education programs increased after access to financial aid is expanded for those who have been incarcerated.  Through the program, incarcerated citizens of the US who are eligible will receive Pell Grants that allow them to participate in higher education to help them find jobs to support their families after they are released.

With 2.2 million people incarcerated, the US currently holds the highest incarceration rate in the world, with hundreds of thousands being released each year.  According to a 2013 study funded by the Department of Justice, the RAND Corporation discovered that inmates who participated in correctional education were 43% less likely to return to prison in three years after being released when compared with prisoners who did not take part in any sort of educational program.  In addition, the study estimates that for every dollar that is put into correctional education programs, four or five are saved on three-year re-incarceration costs.

“The evidence is clear. Promoting the education and job training for incarcerated individuals makes communities safer by reducing recidivism and saves taxpayer dollars by lowering the direct and collateral costs of incarceration,” said U.S. Secretary of Education John B. King Jr. “I applaud the institutions that have partnered to develop high-quality programs that will equip these students with invaluable learning. The knowledge and skills they acquire will promote successful reintegration and enable them become active and engaged citizens.”

Through the program, participating colleges and universities will form partnerships with 141 Federal and state penal institutions.  In all, close to 12,000 incarcerated students will be placed in educational and training programs.  Federal Pell Grants will be offered to qualifying students who are currently incarcerated but are likely to be released within five years of beginning their coursework.

While most of the participating schools are public two-year or four-year institutions that will provide classroom-based instruction on-site for the inmates, other schools plan on offering either online courses or a hybrid combination of classroom and online instruction.  In all, over 10% of participating schools are Minority-Serving Institutions, and for 37%, this will be the first time that prison-based education is offered.

The schools that have been selected to participate are focusing their programs on supporting successful reentry for inmates.  This was accomplished through the evaluation of the local labor market and offering educational programs that will provide students with the training and credentials they need for success upon being released.  Others have chosen to put students on the path toward a meaningful degree that will allow inmates to continue their education in the future.

Select schools could begin offering education and training to incarcerated individuals as early as July 1.