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U.S. Department of Education Launches Second Chance Pell Pilot Program for Incarcerated Individuals

Posted on 08/18/2015

How More Education Could Save A Half-Million American Lives

As part of the Obama Administration's commitment to create a fairer, more effective criminal justice system, reduce recidivism, and combat the impact of mass incarceration on communities, the Department of Education today announced the Second Chance Pell Pilot program External link opens in new window or tab to test new models to allow incarcerated Americans to receive Pell Grants External link opens in new window or tab and pursue the postsecondary education with the goal of helping them get jobs, support their families, and turn their lives around.

High-quality correctional education — including postsecondary correctional education — has been shown to measurably reduce re-incarceration rates. By reducing recidivism, correctional education can ultimately save taxpayers money and create safer communities. According to a Department of Justice funded 2013 study from the RAND Corporation External link opens in new window or tab, incarcerated individuals who participated in correctional education were 43 percent less likely to return to prison within three years than prisoners who didn't participate in any correctional education programs. RAND estimated that for every dollar invested in correctional education programs, four to five dollars are saved on three year re-incarceration costs.

In 1994, Congress amended the Higher Education Act (HEA) to eliminate Pell Grant eligibility for students in federal and state penal institutions. The United States currently has the highest incarceration rate in the world with more than 1.5 million prisoners. The pilot being announced today will restore educational opportunity for some of those individuals, improving their chances to stay out of prison and become productive members of their communities after they are released.

"As the President recently noted, for the money we currently spend on prison we could provide universal pre-k for every 3- and 4-year-old in America or double the salary of every high school teacher in the country," said U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan. "America is a nation of second chances. Giving people who have made mistakes in their lives a chance to get back on track and become contributing members of society is fundamental to who we are – it can also be a cost-saver for taxpayers."

Through this pilot program External link opens in new window or tab, incarcerated individuals who otherwise meet Title IV eligibility requirements and are eligible for release, particularly within the next five years, could access Pell Grants to pursue postsecondary education and training. The goal is to increase access to high-quality educational opportunities and help these individuals successfully transition out of prison and back into the classroom or the workforce. Incarcerated students who receive Pell Grants through this pilot will be subject to cost of attendance restrictions, so Pell Grants can only be used to pay for tuition, fees, books and supplies required by an individual's education program. Incarcerated individuals will not be eligible to receive other types of Federal student aid under this pilot.

The deadline for postsecondary institutions to apply for this pilot program is Sept. 30, 2015 for the 2016-2017 academic year.

More information can be found here: https://s3.amazonaws.com/public-inspection.federalregister.gov/2015-18994.pdf External link opens in new window or tab

Source: U.S. Department of Education Press Release External link opens in new window or tab; July 31, 2015.